Picture any pristine rural scene. Cool, clean water is certain to be a part of the picture. Keeping that water clean and safe is a big concern out on the farm.
Farm families, agricultural professionals, environmental and commodity groups and others can take an in-depth look at water quality concerns and solutions at the Watershed Stewardship Seminar March 11-12.
Learning all the ways farming affects groundwater and surface water can be overwhelming. This two-day program will cover the issues and suggest many solutions. It will enlist community input and show successes on local farms.
"We chose the Little River-Rooty Creek Watershed for this program because of the concern that dairy, poultry and beef farms there can pose water-quality problems," said Lisa Ann Kelley, a UGA agricultural pollution prevention specialist.
"Farmers in this watershed have been working with Extension Service professionals and their cooperating partners to address these concerns," said Frank Henning, an Extension Service water quality area agent.
The area has high numbers of livestock, and the watershed runs off into popular recreational lakes Oconee and Sinclair. Area farmers volunteered to put water-quality improvement programs into place to prevent pollution.
Many of these farmers will host minitours. They'll show management practices that are both profit-friendly and water-friendly. Demonstrations will include field runoff, rotational grazing, off-stream watering, well curbing, poultry composting, dairy pump-outs and stream crossing.
Experts will cover the latest farm programs, which agencies to work with and what to expect. They will explain Best Management Practices and funding sources, too.
"The Georgia Farm*A*Syst program promotes the use of BMPs in agriculture," Kelley said. "Farm*A*Syst is an interagency partnership that provides Georgia farmers information and a voluntary way to be proactive in preventing pollution."
Georgia Farm*A*Syst is modeled after a successful national program. It shows farmers the environmental soundness of their farms in specific areas. It helps them see areas of concern and find ways to improve.
Instructors from the Georgia Adopt-A-Stream program will also be on hand for the seminar. They'll teach biological and chemical stream-monitoring techniques and give certification tests.
To sign up, call 1-800-685-2443. Or call the county Extension Service office.
Farmers and students can get scholarships to cover their fees if they sign up by March 2. The normal fee is $15 and covers meals and transportation.
(Faith Peppers is the director of public affairs with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)