Making Sustainability A Family Affair

USSEC Staff Writer

USSEC Staff Writer

U.S. Soybean Export Council

Richard Jameson has made a home for himself on the cutting edge of sustainable farming. He’s always collecting data to make his operation more efficient, often making new practices a habit before others in his area give them a thought. And, he says this early-adopter attitude is a family value.

“My father was devoted to crop diversification and soil conservation,” says Jameson, a soybean farmer from Brownsville, Tenn. “For as long as I can remember, we’ve been growing four crops – soybeans, corn, wheat and cotton – and we were the first farm in our area to start using terraces.”

Richard Jameson

The terraces, which Jameson’s father was among the first to install in the 1950s, helped prevent the farm’s erosion-prone loess soil from floating away. And, 64 miles of grassed waterways provide a system that carries runoff.

And now the terraces coexist among other, more modern sustainable farming practices, like cover crops. In fact, Jameson’s farm may be the first in the area to use cover crops to fight herbicide-resistant weeds like Palmer amaranth and marestail.

“We are diligent with rotating crops and herbicides as well as trying new management practices like cover crops,” says Jameson. “We’re seeing some progress but there will always be some weed escapes.”

Jameson has also embraced precision farming, a 21st century method for improving productivity and sustainability. The GPS machinery in his combine can create a map that shows yield discrepancies across his field. Jameson can see which acres perform best and get more out of fewer inputs based on what different areas need.

“Sometimes, there’s a drainage problem or a place that needs more herbicide,” he says. “And for some reason or another, there were a few spots that just didn’t yield well. So I did the logical thing and set them aside for conservation purposes.”

Instead of spending the resources to fertilize and combine areas that weren’t performing, Jameson covered 84 acres in warm-season grass and entered the area into the Conservation Reserve Program.

Jameson has been recognized for his sustainable-farming efforts by multiple organizations. He’s received the American Soybean Association’s Conservation Legacy Award for the Southeastern region and the 2013 Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year Award for Tennessee.