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Celebrating those who started green, stayed green
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"They were green before green was cool."

That simple comment made during an awards presentation to two deserving farm families during this week's Rotary meeting came out of my mouth in just a few seconds, but the words have lingered in my mind all week.

Truly, Kellie and Tim Bowen from Full Bloom Nursery, recipients of Rotary's 2011 Farm Family award, and Allen and Doris Conner, winner of this year's Hugh Mills Conservation Farm Family Award, have been involved in conservation and environmental efforts for most of their lives.

The conservation that takes place on the Conner farm in North Hall County includes practices that have improved the quality of soil and water and, eventually, quality of life for all of us. Kellie, who grew up in the green industry in South Florida, and Tim, who spent his early years on a Hall County dairy farm, have combined their efforts to not only raise horses, cattle and hay, but to grow beautiful plants on their Clermont area nursery.

While the Conners and Bowens have done and continue to do their parts in making Northeast Georgia a wonderful and environmentally healthy place to live, there are many others who have done the same for years and even generations.

If I attempted to name all of these individually, I would certainly leave someone out. I also must remember space restraints that would limit the naming of all of these longtime unsung conservation heroes.

There are several groups that I would like to declare "green before green was cool."

The Hall County Soil and Water Conservation District and her sister districts located throughout the country have led in natural resource conservation efforts for decades. Along with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the local districts have promoted and assisted with conservation projects ranging from the building of terraces to installing stream bank restoration.

As a youngster, I was blessed to attend numerous conservation district meetings with my grandfather, who served as chairman of our local district for almost 50 years. I recall walking through waist-high clover, viewing newly built farm ponds, and hearing of the importance of terrace establishment and maintenance.

As a county agent in counties in south, middle and north Georgia, I have had the privilege to work with NRCS folks and district supervisors who have truly understood the importance of maintaining a healthy environment while continuing to help farmers produce food and fiber for a hungry world.

Speaking of those farmers, I feel they are truly one of the most underappreciated groups as it relates to the protection of our environment. Of course, there are some who have perhaps not done their due diligence, but the vast majority of farmers have been incredible stewards of the natural resources that they have managed and continue to manage.

While they have received some help in their conservation efforts, they have spent much time and many dollars to install conservation practices that have helped their farming efforts for a short time, but that have helped all of us and those of future generations for our and their lifetimes.

I could certainly name many other groups and individuals who have contributed mightily to conservation efforts in our communities, state, country and world. I think of garden clubs, the Hall county Master Gardeners and their sister organizations, and 4-H and FFA members involved in conservation efforts.

I'm certain that I have left out many who were green before being green was cool. Let me simply say that I, for one, am thankful for all who have helped make this a greener and more sustainable world and for those who have done so while providing all of us with food and fiber that we so desperately need.

Gene Anderson is the interim Hall County Extension Office coordinator. Contact him at 770-531-6988.


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