About 125 attended the gathering at the Yamboree Exhibit Building. Although held in 2014, the banquet was labeled the 2013 Conservation Awards Banquet to honor persons for their activities during the past year.
Award recipients, most of whom attended, included David C. and Carol Powell, “Friend of Conservation”; Dr. John E. Petty, “Conservation Rancher”; Danny and Linda Andrews, “Foresty Conservationist”; and Scott and Jennifer Clower, “Business Professional.”
Awards were also presented to high school Future Farmers of America chapters that finished either first, second or third in contests sponsored by the district.
The Gilmer-based SWCD, headquartered in the USDA Service Center on south U.S. 271 South, was created in 1941 to promote “protection of health, recreation, safety and general welfare of people by encouraging conservation of our basic resources: soil, water, plants and animals.”
The district works to protect ground and surface water, cooperating with the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board to assist agricultural producers in developing Water Quality Mangement Plans.
The SWCD also administers cost-share programs, which help producers enhance water quality through such means as incinerators, dry stack storage facilities, and reducing contaminants caused by animal mortality and litter production.
In addition, the Upshur-Gregg SWCD sponsors five local conservation contests each school year for FFA and 4-H students.
Melvin Reynolds, chairman of the district’s 5-member Board of Directors and master of ceremonies for Thursday’s banquet, told the gathering the SWCD’s job was to leave soil, water and air “for future generations as we enjoy it now.” He introduced State Rep. David Simpson (R-Longview), who was among those present.
A pre-recorded audiovisual show, narrated and presented by District Conservationist Robbie Clemens, detailed the individual award recipients’ activities and backgrounds.
The Powells, who are Rusk County residents, were honored for his numerous agricultural-related activities, including his 34 years with the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board and 5 1/2 years with the Texas Agriculture Extension Service before he retired from the board in 2007. Four years later, he began an agriculture-related radio show which still airs on KPXI and KWRD Radio in Henderson, and the station has been honored by the Texas Assn. of Vo-Ag Teachers.
Upon receiving his award, Powell, who said his wife was baby-sitting, told the banquet audience, “This is one of the best districts in the state. It’s been judged that way.”
Dr. Petty, a Gilmer native who has lived and practiced chiropractic in Longview for 39 years, was cited for his work on his farms in Upshur and Gregg Counties. He has a 100-acre pine plantation in Upshur County, and a 400-acre hay and cattle farm in Gregg.
His 200-acre Gregg County pasture has 65 head of Black Angus cattle, which are fed from a harvest of costal Bermuda grass hay. He was cited for “excellent management” allowing him to cut his grass on a 28-day cycle.
The doctor was also honored for keeping his farms “in prime condition by regular fertilization and weed control,” utilizing the USDA’s EQIP cost sharing program for help with cross-fence construction and applying chicken litter.
He prefers litter over commercial fertilizer “due to its highly effective results on his coastal hay and grazing lands,” Ms. Clemens noted in the slide show, adding “He is careful with application rates and is sure to retain buffer zone in protection of water resources.”
Mr. and Mrs. Andrews were honored for their “highly productive” 179-acre tree farm on Verbena Road in northeast Upshur County. It hosts acreages of pine, hardwood and pine-hardwood mix.
In 2012, the Andrewses worked with Texas Forest Service District Forester Juan Merriweather, who helped them develop a new 10-year Forest Stewardship Plan. He was quoted as saying the tract offers wildlife cover from predators.
The couple was cited for maintaining firebreaks around their property and managing streamside management zones. Danny Andrews, who has worked for more than 40 years at U.S. Steel, began working on his family farm at age 17.
Scott Clower attended and accepted the award for him and his wife, who were honored for their involvement with Clower Meat Market. He is also athletic coordinator at Gladewater Middle School, while Jennifer Clower is First Vice President of Bancorp South in Longview. In addition, Mr. Clower has a commercial hay business, helps his brothers maintain the family’s cow herd, and serves on the Board of Directors for both the Gregg County Farm Bureau and Jacobs Water Supply Corp. START
The FFA chapters receiving contest awards included:
Plant ID—Ore City FFA No. 1, first place; Union Grove FFA No. 1, second place; Ore City FFA No. 2, third.
Woodland Clinic—Gilmer No. 2, first; Gilmer No. 3, second; Harmony No. 1, third.
Wildlife Clinic—Gilmer No. 1, first; Kilgore No. 1, second; Gilmer No. 2, third.
Land Judging—Big Sandy No. 1, first; Ore City No. 1, second; New Diana No. 1, third.
Directors of the SWCD district, besides Reynolds, include Vice Chairman Harold Stone, Secretary-Treasurer Victor Hill, Steve Still and Bobby Fortson.
Staff members in the Gilmer office other than Ms. Clements, incude District Technician John Wade and Soil Scientist Sara Russell.