Dewayne Goldmon, owner of Dell-Cam Farm in Jefferson County, is concerned about the dwindling numbers of black farmers.

Dewayne Goldmon, owner of Dell-Cam Farm in Jefferson County, is concerned about the dwindling numbers of black farmers.

“Black row crop growers are the most rapidly diminishing group of farmers; there aren’t many left,” said Goldmon, who hopes to stem this tide and opened his family’s farm to the general public July 19.

Goldmon, who farms at Wabbaseka, was selected to host a 2012 Model Farm tour by the National Black Growers Council.

Among his many hats is membership in the NBGC, organized in 2009, to improve the efficiency, productivity and sustainability of black row-crop farmers.

NBGC has been working with various U.S. Department of Agriculture agencies and the agricultural industry to demonstrate the best that agriculture has to offer. The council refers to this as the Model Farm program, which is supported by the 2501 Grant program in USDA’s Office of Advocacy and Outreach.

Dell-Cam Farm includes 750 acres of corn, rice, soybeans, and grain sorghum. The focus of the tour was to demonstrate integrated usage of USDA programs and agricultural technologies that can be used to improve farm productivity.

Visitors, who numbered nearly 300, including a busload of producers and their children from Louisiana, learned about grid sampling, yield mapping, autosteer, variable rate applications, corn and soybean production, and irrigation improvements.

Bill Bridgeforth, NBGC chairman from Tanner, Ala., said one secret to success is to “to only put it only where it is needed” and John Deere representatives showed how this can be done.

With grid sampling, every 2 ½ acres is sampled. And, using a computer program to map the field, crop inputs (fertilizer, lime, seed and chemicals) are only put where needed. There is no waste. Once grid sampling is in effect, then producers can go on to zone sampling.

“This is also creating opportunities for young people as programmers for tractors,” said one presenter.

Tractors were shown with an autosteer feature which implements automated steering and positioning in the landscape, thus reducing overlap and cutting down on energy and time wasted. One tractor was in operation to demonstrate these features, and some tour participants got a first hand look from inside the tractor’s cab. It is the same technology that flies the space shuttle and airplanes.

Monsanto is a sustaining member to the NBGC and helped establish DeKalb corn and Asgrow soybean variety trials on the farm. Some 15 varieties of hybrid corn were being grown on Goldmon’s farm.

Haywood Harrell, a retired county agent and NBGC member from Halifax, N.C., gave tips on growing corn, which was going for $8 a bushel that morning.

“Knowing your soil type and fertility is key to selecting the hybrid that will work best for you. And, be prepared to change varieties as technology changes quickly,” he advised.

Popular corn hybrids contain three different insect control genes. If you use such a hybrid, be prepared to have a “refuge,” a place, mandated by EPA, for insects to feed and not be exposed to the in-plant protection provided by these hybrids. The refuge is used to dilute the genes of any insects that may develop resistance, explained Goldmon, who is also director of stakeholder relations with Monsanto.

John Lee, state agronomist with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), explained new incentives for growers, including an integrated pest management program that provides financial support to control herbicide resistant weeds.

As far as the eye could see, there was no evidence of a drought, observers noticed. Crops were lush and the ground appeared to have been recently watered. Initially, there was only one well on the 200-acre field selected for the tour, which made irrigating the crop a major chore.

After improvements made in consultation with NRCS, over 60 percent of the field is watered with surface water using a tailwater recovery system, said Goldmon. He, then pointed out how with precision leveling, all irrigation water is directed to the reservoir for continuous recycling throughout the farm. Water is reused and reused and is only lost through evaporation.

A National Audubon Society representative discussed native warm season grass production and the use of filter strips for enhanced wildlife habitat.

Jeff Edwards of IH Powersource demonstrated his newly invented Rainmaker ITS, which has shown great savings in fuel consumption of power units.

After the field tours, USDA representatives pointed out how cost-share, ranging from 65 percent to 90 percent, opportunities are available to implement conservation and good stewardship practices. In some instances, farmers can “even be paid for what they are already doing,” said Charlie Williams, USDA Strike Force Leader. Also covered were loans and crop insurance.

NBGC’s model farm program is a national effort. Several tour participants were departing Pine Bluff en route to northeast Louisiana to participate in the Morehouse Black Farmers and Landowners Association annual field day, scheduled for the next day.

Goldmon is quick to point out that he doesn’t “do it by himself.” He has the help of his family and often relies on the expertise of Henry English, director of the Small Farm Program at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, and various USDA agencies.

“Black farmers continue to be a rich source of diversity for world agriculture,” said Goldmon. “Showing this integrated adoption of programs and technologies is an important step in maintaining this talent source.”

Carol Sanders is a writer/editor at the UAPB School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences.