TIFTON – Brian Ponder, co-owner of Pond-O-Gold Farms and Brian and Ken Ponder Farms in Omega, has been named Conservationist of the Year 2022.
The Georgia Association of Conservation Districts named Ponder for his outstanding contributions to the conservation of natural resources.
Ponder is a fourth-generation farmer from Tift County, officials at the association said in a statement.
Ponder still lives on the original farm his great-grandfather moved to in 1884, which began with just 96 acres.
The farm has been in the family for 138 years and the Ponders still find something to do each year to try and make it more productive while tending to them.
He and his family farm now farm 3,000 acres of peanuts, cotton, corn, watermelon, pecans and pine. His operations embody a “commitment to conservation,” including reducing water use and preventing erosion through strip seeding.
His father was a major conservationist in the 1970s and taught these practices to Brian and his brother Ken.
Her father always said, “If you take care of this country, it will take care of you.”
“Brian and Ken take that to heart as they make daily decisions for their farm,” officials said. “He’s very proud that he and Ken were the first farmers ever to pull cotton as a cover crop in Tift and Colquitt counties. They care passionately about the land and use innovative methods to do so.”
Soil health, water conservation and reduction of diesel emissions are some of the factors that go into the management of his farm. All peanuts and cotton on the farm are strip plowed and processed into cover crops, reducing soil disturbance and erosion.
In addition, they are working to bring in all cover crops without tillage. He uses terraces and waterways to reduce erosion and has even helped other local farmers build terraces and waterways, officials said.
In terms of water conservation, all of their irrigation systems feature drip nozzle technology, regulators, are low pressure and almost all have been converted to electricity from diesel pump systems.
All of these measures are intended to help reduce water consumption and improve efficiency. He also uses organic matter for fertilizers like chicken manure and gin trash.
In addition to conservation measures being implemented on his farm, Ponder has been active in the conservation community with contacts and awards. He has been District Manager for the Soil & Water Conservation District in Middle South Georgia for 20 years and serves as Group 3 Vice President for GACD.
He has been Conservationist of the Year for Tift County, Tift County Farmer of the Year, ABAC Alumni of the Year and a member of the Conservation Tillage Alliance.
When asked what his greatest honor was, Ponder responded with a story about a neighbor who was a widowed woman. He rented land from her and was eventually able to buy her land when she died.
It came back to him that she had told people in the community about all the conservation efforts he was doing and that many people owed him everything he did for the country.
Ponder was so honored that she had such incredible things to say. Simply put, he loves land and works every day to take better care of it.
“His willingness to adopt conservation practices and share with the community how important he thinks he is speaks for itself,” officials said. “People like Brian are critical to the future of our country’s preservation.”
“Brian and his family embody the ‘commitment to conservation’ that this award was intended to recognize. By adopting best management practices and other technologies, his operations are a prime example of how strong environmental ethics can still result in consistently good yields and productivity,” said Mark Masters, President of GACD. “We congratulate them on this honor and wish them the best of luck in their competition to represent Georgia for the national Friend of Conservation award, to be announced next month.”
The mission of the Georgia Association of Conservation Districts is to advocate for the preservation of Georgia’s natural resources by providing organization, leadership, and a unified strategic direction to the state’s conservation districts.
For more information on GACD, visit www.gacd.us or follow us on Facebook @GACDConserve.