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Sowing seeds to reap a harvest

Published: 03/22/17 11:20AM
By: booner

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Bobby Solomon (left) Fort Valley State University’s Talbot County extension agent, discusses the growth progress of a pine tree seedling with Harrison Rucker on Rucker’s farm near Talbotton, Ga.

Harrison Rucker, 82, considers himself to be a “native son” of Talbotton.

Talbotton, a rural setting nestled in central Georgia’s woodland, provided Rucker with a southern upbringing on his father’s 127 acre farm.

In 1953 Rucker left the countryside and moved to Atlanta and worked for the Atlanta Housing Authority for 49 years while raising his family. During that period of time, he frequently visited his hometown and helped his dad tend to the farm where they raised chickens, turkeys and grew crops.

In 1996 Rucker retired, moved back to Talbotton and settled on his father’s farm. During his retirement, the father of six pined for a means to provide his children with a steady source of income utilizing the property that has been in his family since 1948.

To learn about possible options, Rucker attended an informational meeting hosted by Bobby Solomon, Fort Valley State University’s Talbot County extension agent. The meeting exposed him to programs sponsored by the Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS).

In 2015 with help from Solomon, Rucker decided to apply and be a part of NRCS’s Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP). The following year, his application was accepted and he was awarded a contract for admittance into the program. Participants in the EQIP program receive technical and financial support for their efforts. Farm and land owners participate in the program on a voluntary basis by utilizing conservation methods on land set aside for agricultural or forestry production. Some of the conservation methods include improvement of animal, air, soil and water resources. For example, for soil an applicant can plant trees to prevent erosion.

All accepted EQIP applicants are eligible to participate in the program. Historically Underserved (HU) farmers such as Rucker, receive 90 percent cost share assistance while all other applicants receive 75 percent assistance. HU farmers are minorities such as women, African Americans, Alaskan natives, American Indians, Hispanics, Asians, native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders.

The Talbot County native decided to use forestry as a long term means of improving the production of his land and provide his offspring a no-frills financial asset. “We (Solomon and Rucker) also wanted to keep the property in the family for the next ones (generations) if possible and plan to keep it going,” Rucker said. Rucker then decided to plant 72 acres of pine trees to put his plan into motion.

Solomon said that once the trees mature in 15-20 years, the timber will be sold.  “This is going to be long-term generational wealth for his children, that’s going to be sustainable for them,” Solomon said.

Rucker said he will eagerly tell other farmers and land-owners about the guidance he received about land management from FVSU’ Cooperative Extension. “Without them (FVSU), I don’t know what I would have done. I had no idea where to go until I met Brother Solomon,” Rucker said.

FVSU’s Cooperative Extension Program works in conjunction with the Cooperative Extension Service, the University of Georgia and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide services and educational programs to various clients in the state. This includes homemakers, small and part-time farmers, rural disadvantaged and members of the general public. To find a FVSU county agent in your area, visit our county agents and program assistants page or call (478) 825-6296.