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Barry honored for commitment to environment-friendly farming
Local Farmer Environmental Steward 1.jpg
Austin Barry stands in front of a field of corn at Billings Family Farms in Centertown. Barry was recently presented the Tennessee Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers District IV Environmental Stewardship Award for 2020. Barry was recognized for his environmentally conscious farming practices. - photo by Chris Simones

A local farmer has been recognized for his commitment to environmental stewardship in the way he conducts business on the family farm.

Austin Barry was named the Tennessee Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers District IV Environmental Stewardship Award for 2020. The award was presented to Barry on July 18 in Columbia, TN at the Tennessee Farm Bureau YF&R Summer Conference.

“Farming is my passion,” Barry said. “I love the fact I can take a seed, put it in the ground, watch it grow, and then harvest it to produce food.”

Barry is a 2016 graduate of WCHS. He received his degree in agricultural business from Tennessee Tech in May of 2019. 

Barry works on Billings Family Farms in Centertown, a 1,400-acre farm where they raise corn, soybeans, wheat for grain, mixed grass hay, and a cow-calf operation.

“As a farmer, the land is the most important asset we have so taking care of it and making it better motivates me to do the best I can,” Barry said. “Land is not made every day so we have to take care of what we have.”

That approach to farming is what made Barry a prime candidate for the environmental stewardship award.

To qualify to be eligible for the environmental stewardship award, nominees must meet several criteria. One criterion specifies the young farmer must have evaluated the potential environmental effects of practices, structure, and conditions. Barry has that covered.

“On my farm, I have implemented cross fences and self-waterers to prevent overgrazing and give pasture land time to rejuvenate and grow to maintain cattle year round,” Barry explained. “Self-waterers ensure clean, healthy drinking water stays fresh and clean by keeping cattle out of it.”

“I leave buffers around waterways and low lying areas to keep chemicals from washing into groundwater. This gives wildlife a place to flourish,” Barry stated. “Fertilizer is applied by what the soil test calls for to ensure over application does not happen and lead to leaching.” 

Leaching refers to the movement of contaminants, such as water-soluble pesticides or fertilizers, carried by water downward through permeable soils. In general, most pesticides adsorb to soil particles, become immobile, and do not leach.

Another criterion specifies that the young farmer must have a plan to deal with significant environmental effects of practices, structure, and conditions on their farm. Barry explained how he has satisfied that requirement.

“A big conservation problem facing farmers in this area is soil erosion. The rolling hills in our area make it hard for the soil to stay in place especially with the large amounts of rainfall in the winter,” said Barry. “On my farm, I have implemented planting cover crops in ditch lines and washable areas to help prevent erosion. Cover crops help hold the soil together and lessen the impact watershed can have on the ground during hard rains.”