Seven local farms to share water improvement funds


300-HASTINGS-FARMEarlier today, seven farms in St Johns, Flagler and Putnam Counties were awarded a share of $639,220 in state funds to implement projects that will contribute to improving the health of the St. Johns River; according to information received by Historic City News from the Water Management District’s governing board.

The growers will contribute a combined $441,000 in partial matching funds to implement best management practices and projects to control runoff from farms; reducing pollutant loads to the St. Johns River.

“Water management practices, such as enhanced seepage irrigation and subsurface drip irrigation, retain nutrients in the field by reducing the amount of water running off of the field during times of irrigation. They also have the added benefit of conserving water by reducing the amount of water applied to the field,” said Derek Busby, leader of the District’s Middle and Lower St. Johns River Water Quality Improvement Initiative. “Fertilizer banding helps to improve nutrient uptake efficiency for the crop by applying fertilizer directly to the planted row. This practice has shown to decrease phosphorus fertilizer rates by 30 percent.”

The selected projects include two enhanced seepage irrigation (subsurface drip irrigation), one high tunnel growing shelter with drip irrigation and stormwater harvesting, and four fertilizer banders.

Project recipients to receive funding under the Partnership program are:
  • • Picolata Farms for enhanced seepage irrigation on 40 acres. Cost-share funding: $75,000.
  • • John Mitchell Farms for fertilizer banding equipment and tractor global positioning system (GPS). Cost-share funding: $76,850.
  • • Yu An Farms for fertilizer banding equipment. Cost-share funding: $75,000.
  • • Sykes Farm for high tunnel with drip irrigation, fertilizer banding and rainwater harvesting. Cost-share funding: $264,750.
  • • William Revels Farm for fertilizer tender and GPS unit for existing bander. Cost-share funding: $19,200.
  • • Mike Revels Farm for fertilizer bander with tender. Cost-share funding: $57,800.
  • • First Farms for enhanced seepage irrigation on 50 acres. Cost-share funding: $70,620.

“The health of the St. Johns River is important to the citizens of the Tri-County Agricultural Area,” said Deputy Secretary of Water Policy and Ecosystem Restoration Drew Bartlett of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. “I commend these farms and those that preceded them for stepping up with innovative changes to protect this critical river from excess nutrient pollution.”

The projects are anticipated to begin by Sept. 30 and will contribute to the improved health of the river through on-farm and regional water management projects and practices that reduce the movement of nutrients to the river, improve water conservation, and result in more efficient farm management while maintaining the long-term viability of agriculture in the Tri-County Agricultural Area.