Paul Blackwell, a native of Marion County, has been chosen by the Marlboro Soil and Water Conservation District as its 2002 Conservationist of the Year. Mr. Blackwell, along with wife Katie and their children, Paul Blackwell, III and Adrian, came to Marlboro County in 1995 when he purchased his dream- a 350 acre tract consisting mostly of bottomland hardwood forests along the Pee Dee River. Mr. Blackwell is not your traditional farmer or the District’s usual Conservationist of the Year. His focus and dedication are managing his lands for the betterment and improvement of wildlife. Those lands include the 350 acres where he and his family live; Egypt Farms, a 933 acre farm of which he is President and co-owner along with nine partners and a leased 700 acre tract which is adjacent to his home tract. Other than approximately 200 acres of Egypt Farms which is leased to O’Neal Brothers Farms for traditional farming practices, all remaining lands- owned and leased- are dedicated to wildlife. Examples are 107 acres of Conservation Reserve Program Riparian Buffers which include loblloy pines, sawtooth oaks and native warm season grasses; 10 food plots planted to sawtooth oaks, bicolor lespedeza and ladino clover; and chufa, a legume planted for wild turkeys. There is a ten acre duck pond at Egypt Farms and two five acre duck ponds on Mr. Blackwell’s home tract. These ponds, constructed in 2001, attracted thousands of ducks during their initial season. More are expected this year. Mr. Blackwell states Katie and he get much pleasure from just watching the ducks as they feed and fly in and out of the ponds. Numerous woodland openings have been established throughout the various tracts and planted to ladino clover, bicolor lespedeza and soybeans. Ten additional acres have been planted to cherry bark oak, swamp chestnut and sawtooth- all designed to benefit all species of wildlife. It is obvious Paul Blackwell is a serious and dedicated conservationist! He comments, “I want to put back more than I take because I want future generations to enjoy the land and wildlife as I have.”
The Marlboro Conservation District, in cooperation with Clemson Extension Service, the USDA - Natural Resource Conservation Service and the SC Department of Natural Resources conducted a tour of several Strip-Till demonstration fields and a Waste Storage Facility during September. The Strip-Till sites were located at the Richard Rogers, Mack Helms, Michael O'Tuel, and Jeffery Newton Farms. The Waste Storage facility is located at Robert Griggs Poultry Farm. The Field Day was held to demonstrate two best management practices used in the Crooked Creek Watershed to improve water quality within this hydrologic unit. The District's Powell Ro-Till unit was used as alternative to the conventional method of planting cotton. The strip-till concept has been designed to relieve compaction problems and reduce water runoff therefore reducing nutrient and sediment loading into the streams and other water bodies of Marlboro County. The waste storage facility is used to provide temporary storage of poultry litter until the appropriate time that crop and weather conditions allow waste to be spread on the fields. Controlled litter applications will reduce runoff of nutrients into waterways and streams thereby improving water quality. Other farmers interested in the concept or rental of the Powell Ro-Till unit or would like to know more about waste storage facilities should contact the Marlboro Soil and Water Conservation District (843) 479-4552. The Crooked Creek Water Quality Tour is part of the Crooked Creek Water Quality Demonstration Project and is funded by US EPA under a Section 319 Grant through the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control.