Farmers’ breakfast promotes ag cost-share program

Shannon CareyNortheast Knox

If there’s a better way to reach a group of farmers than through an old-fashioned country breakfast, I haven’t heard of it.

And sounds like great minds think alike, so to speak, because that’s just how Knox County Stormwater Management and Knox County Soil Conservation District chose to spread the word about cost-share programs for agriculture in Flat Creek and Roseberry Creek watersheds in East and Northeast Knox County, Union County and Grainger County.

Gathered farmers hear from Tracy Jones at the breakfast. (Photos submitted)

About 40 farmers gathered at Washington Presbyterian Church March 24, for a hearty breakfast and to hear from guest speaker Greg Brann, a grazing soil health specialist whose topic was “Grazing for Profit: Grazing Best Management and Water Protection.”

Funds are available through February 2020 for cost-share on voluntary best management practices in both watersheds, and another grant helps homeowners fix failing septic systems in Roseberry Watershed.

Guest speaker Greg Brann

Those best management practices include livestock exclusion fencing along creeks, grazing management, alternative watering stations, and more. Soil Conservationist Quinn Cypher emphasized that these practices are voluntary, and that the Soil Conservation District exists to help farmers, not to penalize them.

Cynthia Foster and Mildred Thompson cook breakfast for the farmers.

But, putting these practices into use can benefit farmers.

“Good grazing management helps the producer as well as water quality,” he said. “You can double the amount of grass you grow, and one of your biggest costs when raising cattle is feed.”

Tracy Jones of Knox County Stormwater said grant funds are available in these watersheds because the watersheds are listed on the EPA’s impaired list due to high levels of pathogens, including E. coli bacteria. Fixing failing septic systems and using best management practices for grazing livestock can reduce the levels of pathogens in creeks and streams.

“We just wanted to get the word out that we have funds available in both watersheds,” Jones said.

In fact, host church Washington Presbyterian is receiving a 75 percent cost-share from the program to change from a septic system to sewer.

Cypher said farmers interested in the cost-share program should call the Knox County Soil Conservation District office. After a site visit from a soil conservationist, the office will work with farmers to determine what best management practices best fit their needs.

“Once we have a plan, then they’ll apply for cost-share if applicable, submit it to the watershed coordinator and the Soil Conservation board for approval, and then move forward,” he said.

Grant partners in Flat Creek Watershed include the Soil Conservation Districts of Union and Grainger counties since the watershed extends into those counties. Funds are available throughout the watershed, not just in Knox County.

For information about septic system cost-share in Roseberry Creek Watershed, contact Tracy Jones at 865-215-5540. For information about agriculture cost-share in Flat Creek or Roseberry Creek watersheds, or for septic cost-share in Flat Creek Watershed, call Quinn Cypher at 865-523-3338 Ext. 3.

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