I first met Nick Thomas, President and Founder of STEWARD LINK, in 2006. Mary and I had bought a piece of property in the Mississippi Delta, and we wanted to make the land more productive while being a compliment to wildlife and conservation in general.
I had heard about Nick from another landowner, so Mary and I drove to Lexington, Mississippi where Nick was the District Conservationist for the National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) for Holmes County. Our goal was to find out what opportunities may be available through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to take marginal land out of row crop production, establish permanent cover to stop erosion and learn about other conservation practices that may be available for our farm, Rivers Run.
Nick being an avid hunter, turkey hunter for sure, we hit it off right away. Nick soon introduced us to other NRCS leaders, like Kevin Nelms and Kerry Sims, who brought even more knowledge and understanding to the forefront. The conservation programs that were available to us enhanced our land and increased the value of our property. Mary and I were able to quickly elevate the level of conservation on our farm through the conservation programs Nick told us about. It was a win win!
We enrolled our marginal cropland into the Conservation Reserve Program’s wetland restoration practice. This practice helped us minimize erosion, plant trees, warm-season native grasses, and manage shallow water impoundments for moist soil. All of this provided an exceptional habitat for wildlife. We also managed water levels in other areas on our farm with pipes and water control structures provided by US Fish and Wildlife Service through the Partners Program. We enrolled the existing timberland at Rivers Run into the Conservation Stewardship Program which incentivized us to manage the land for all types of wildlife such as songbirds, butterflies, forest-dwelling bats, and many other species. The improvements to conservation on Rivers Run were outstanding.
I have hunted all my life and made building a company, Primos Hunting, which builds hunting products, my livelihood. Throughout this journey, I became an even more dedicated conservationist. I learned that a lot of land stewards are doing a lot of little things to put conservation on the ground which makes life better for wildlife and people as well. Things like improving water quality, minimizing erosion, and managing wildlife habitat are just a few examples of the benefits that can be realized through USDA conservation programs.
As a Conservation Advocate, just being involved with Nick, Aaron, Barrett and Michael has been incredibly rewarding. As we continue to build STEWARD LINK, I have learned so much about helping land stewards become aware of how USDA programs help landowners, farmers, and many others improve the productivity of their land by putting conservation on the ground. These benefits will have a positive effect on today’s land stewards and the environment in general for a long time to come.
I am proud of Steward Link and in my role as Chief Conservation Advocate with Steward Link’s guidance I see more Conservation being put on the ground every day, which builds a better life for us all.