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Beginning Farmer Program Regional Workshop with Marion Barnes

niversity Extension Service administers the South Carolina New and Beginning Farmer Program. In August of 2016 Clemson University and their Department of Agribusiness received a grant of $595,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to nurture the next generation of S.C. farmers. A part of their outreach program provides regional workshops, and the Colleton County Clemson Extension Office hosted a talk by Marion Barnes on pasture grass, hay production and developing wildlife plots.
Clemson Extension’s Alta Mae Marvin introduced Marion Barnes as a Senior County Extension Agent, with long term tenure in Colleton County, distinguished by his knowledge on row crop farming, forages for livestock, and wildlife food plots. “If your hay field could talk it would tell you to get a soil sample test from the Clemson Extension,” said Barnes. “Each soil test is the best $6 value you can get today, and then you will know what elements to monitor in your pasture, hay field or food plots.”
“For example, potassium is a key to helping Bermuda grass survive a cold and wet winter,” said Barnes. “Parts of Colleton County are low and these areas can have nutrient deficiencies, with low ph increasing toxic levels of aluminum, which in turn damage root hairs and prevent growth. In layman’s’ terms, Bermuda grass doesn’t like wet feet.” When the desired grass growth fails, weeds can enter the field to further complicate the landscape. Barnes states that herbicide control is a good option, but identification of the weed must come first to choose the best chemical solution.
Switching gears to the subject of wildlife food plots, Barnes shares that a multi-year management plan should be produced. “Do you want to attract game or non-game species,” said Barnes. “Wildlife habitat components include acreage, food, water and cover. We have a lot of small farm landowners in Colleton County so adjacent property habitats may influence wildlife use on your property. Keep some flexibility in your management plan since wildlife patterns can fluctuate.”
“Deer are attracted to food plots, but if you are near large row crop farming, providing food may not be your best bet,” said Barnes. “Providing bedding cover, sanctuary areas and travel corridors between them can be highly productive too.” Barnes is full of tips for wildlife lovers, sharing that turkeys love dogwood trees on the landscape, and that legumes are the queen of forage. His passion for wildlife is demonstrated further by his work with Farm Bureau as Chairman of their Wildlife Committee, and by planting and hunting over his own dove fields annually.
Regional workshops will continue in 2018 as the S.C. New and Beginning Farmer Program teaches fundamentals of farm business management, including exposure to advanced topics. Other objectives are to familiarize new farmers with the local, state and federal resources available to them. In many cases, these new farmers can find someone to mentor their plans from the land acquisition phase to the implementation of a business plan. A few guided farm tours are scheduled for 2018 and these provide the opportunity to learn from peers what works best for them, and also what didn’t work so well.
Agribusiness is the number one industry in South Carolina, which includes timber harvest, and the beginning farmer program hopes to reach those who want a lifetime of participation in the agricultural community. The average age of an S.C. farmer continues to increase, but agri-tourism in on the rise as more people look for quality of life experiences in rural areas. Visit the Internet at Clemson.edu/extension to learn more about participating in the New and Beginning Farmer Program.

Jeff Dennis is a Lowcountry native. Read his blog at LowcountryOutdoors.com

Jeff Dennis, Contributor (341 Posts)

Jeff Dennis is a Lowcountry native. Read his blog at www.LowcountryOutdoors.com