Small and Alternative Enterprise - Feature Farmer
George Owens - Washington County - Florida
As an early adopter, George Owens has developed a method of production called Silvopasture/Multi-Cropping with cattle and timber based on research done by Cliff Lewis. The strategy is to always have a marketable cash product getting ready or going to the market place. While the timber grows into veneer blocks and saw timber, cows, calves and hay are being marketed annually. Trees are planted in a configuration spacing of 4'x8'x40' to allow a 40-foot swath of grass & clover between two rows of trees. This is the configuration that was chosen from the research done by Cliff Lewis to provide the highest volume of wood produced of all possible tree planting configurations. This allows hay production between trees until they get large enough to permit cattle grazing without injury to the trees.
His timber marketing strategy uses a forest consultant, who professionally marks the timber for sale at each growth state. All timber is marketed to the highest competitive bid. The cattle are marketed through a value-added Board Sale after they have been vaccinated and preconditioned. His plans consist of long term production of big timber taking up to 35 years of growth. Additional acreage will be placed into Silvopasture as forage production and livestock permits. Cattle and timber production are managed on common land simultaneously. Cattle and hay production provides an income while the timber is being grown and developed into a marketable product. This provides an income stream to pay taxes and operating expenses as they occur, rather than waiting ten or more years before realizing any return on investment as is common in traditional timber production.
Clovers are utilized to fix nitrogen and reduce fertilization costs for summer forage and trees, along with the production of improved pasture. Cattle are rotated through grazing cells allowing for an efficient management strategy of long term use of the grazing acreage that is available. Hunting leases also bring in additional revenue, resulting in an opportunity from the forage diversity and improved wildlife habitat from this style of management.
Silvopasture causes better nutrient distribution from urine and droppings on grazing cells increasing soil fertility, while preventing ground water contamination and erosion. Silvopasture sequesters carbon and produces clean air and water. The tree needles and branches help to filter air pollutants. The tree canopies provide cooler temperatures and improved cattle comfort for grazing cattle in the summer and wind-breaks in the winter. This shaded pasture setting provides longer periods of grazing time each day, especially in the hot summer months, resulting in increased forage consumption and beef gain/day.
Forages are the first point of nutrient uptake from fertilization. However, pine tree roots will pick up any nutrients not utilized by forages which also promote a faster rate of growth from the timber. This style of management also has a positive impact on wildlife habitats. This is evident through the abundance of food and the creation of shelter while the soil quality and organic matter is considerably improved.
George is a strong supporter of Extension and our educational programs. He serves on the UF Northwest District Extension Advisory Committee. He is a strong supporter of 4-H programs and has been a buyer and/or supporter of Washington/Holmes Youth Fair from 1990–present. George is known throughout the United States for his efforts in Silvopasture and Stewardship of the land. He has hosted numerous educational tours from university, NRCS, AFLA and livestock producer groups from across the Southeastern United States. George usually hosts 4+ tours per year. George has graciously hosted Institute of Food Agriculture Sciences Timber management Workshops and County Extension Agent training programs. He also hosted the 2003 IFAS Center for Subtropical Agroforestry Production Tour as well as the 2007 Grazing Ecology Tour representing 17 Universities from California to Virginia. George is always willing to share his knowledge and to help anyone that is interested in learning about silvopasture.
George was asked to make a presentation to the USDA in Washington DC last summer resulting in Silvopasture becoming an approved practice eligible for cost-share by NRCS. This has not only impacted producers on a local or district level but nation-wide. In addition to this major contribution, he is a sought after speaker on Silvopasture that has been involved with University research efforts and is involved in many organizations in support of agriculture.
Completed Speaking engagements:
• Agriforestry Round Table – USDA-NRC, Washington, D.C.—2010
• Grazing Systems Field Day, Americus, GA—2010
• Second National Conference on Grazing Lands, Nashville, TN—2003
• Georgia Association of Conservation District Supervisors, Savannah, GA—2002
• First National Conference on Grazing Lands, Las Vegas, NV—2001
• Stephen F. Austin College of Forestry, Nacogdoches, TX—2001
• Georgia District NRCS Meeting, Vidalia, GA—2001
• NRCS Grass/Wildlife Field Day, Americus, GA—2001
• Georgia Association of Conservation District Supervisor State Meeting, Callaway Gardens, GA—2000
• Second National Small Farm Conference, St. Louis, Missouri—1999
• Louisiana State University College of Forestry, Homer, LA—1997
• University of Florida Beef Cattle Short Course, Gainesville, FL—1996
• Florida Farmer-—December 2001
• The Furrow Magazine—Spring 1999
• Stockman Grass Farmer—Fall 1998
• Longhorn Journal—Fall 1997
• Progressive Farm—Summer 2007
• Southern Farm Journal—June 2007
Co-operator of a two year study with Dr. Mary Goodman of Auburn University resulting in the Journal Article—“Cattle distribution and behavior in southern-pine silvopasture versus open pasture” published 27 August 2009 in Agroforestry Systems (This is accessible online by Springer Science + Business Media)
• Served Seven Years on the UF-IFAS Region I Advisory Committee
• Served on the Advisory Committee for the Center for University of Florida Subtropical Agro-forestry
• Served Several Years on the Washington-Holmes Cattlemen’s Association Board of Directors
• Served 11 Years on the Washington County Extension Agriculture Advisory Committee
• Member—Washington County Farm Bureau & Florida Farm Bureau
• Member—Washington County Cattlemen’s Association & Florida Cattlemen’s Association
• Board of Directors—Orange Hill Soil & Water Conservation District
• Board of Directors—West Florida Electric Cooperative
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