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Two named Master Conservationists

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Deckers, Skeltons were innovative in changing their farms

By Walt Reichert

Kevin Skelton was also named Master Conservationist at the Soil Conservation District meeting. With Skelton were his wife, Lynn and daughters Kristi (back left) and Amanda. The Skeltons farm in the Jacksonville area.

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Two Shelby County farm families get to put the green “Master Conservationist” signs out at the end of their driveways.

Bill Decker and Kevin Skelton were named this year's Master Conservationists at the Shelby County Soil Conservation District's annual meeting Tuesday. To earn the recognition, farmers need to participate in programs and farming practices that save soil and natural resources and offer refuge for wildlife.

The Deckers have a 40-head beef cattle herd on Buzzard Roost Road. They built a feeding facility that allows manure storage for timely placement on fields. The Deckers have also participated in programs that allow farmers to add water lines and tanks to water cattle, which keeps them out of ponds and streams.

Another conservation practice is fencing off woodlands from cattle. Both the Deckers and the Skeltons have put up thousands of feet of fencing to keep cattle out of trees. Excluding cattle allows trees to develop and mature.

Decker planted six of his 107 acres to switchgrass, a warm-season perennial grass that offers good wildlife habitat.

The Skeltons raise beef cattle, hair sheep and tobacco on 107 acres near Jacksonville. Like the Deckers, the Skeltons have added watering facilities to their farms, and Kevin Skelton also developed two springs on the farm into watering tanks for cattle.

On 60 acres of their rolling land, the Skeltons have added warm-season grasses that support an abundance of wildlife, from quail to small mammals. Skelton has also filled in eroding gullies on the farm and has planted tobacco ground to wheat to reduce soil loss.