Jackson County conservationistsJudge Woodrow (Woody) and Chuck Hatcher (Jackson County Times photo). This year's Conservationists of the Year are Judge Woodrow (Woody) and Chuck Hatcher, who manage A. W. Hatcher Farms, a 1,750-acre, family owned farm that has been in the Hatcher family for over a hundred years.

Through the assistance of the USDA- Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Farm Service Agency (FSA), Florida Department of Forestry, and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission the Hatcher Farms has engaged in numerous conservation practices to improve the environment.

On the Hatchers' 800 acres of forested timberland, they utilize tree-site preparation to reduce competitive species to established native longleaf pines. In addition to the planted pines, the Hatchers also maintain a separate 340-acre upland, natural woodland wildlife preserve.

On their 610 acres of cropland that is leased out, they've implemented a number of conservation practices.

The center pivots that irrigate 345 acres have been retrofitted and made more efficient with low volume nozzles.

The farmers that lease their land are required to utilize no-till farming that takes advantage of cover crops and crop residues to reduce moisture and nutrient losses.

Fertilizers are applied using GPS grid sampling and variable-rate application to only apply the nutrients needed for the crops on the different soil types.

They also utilize Bahia and Bermuda grasses to reduce nematode and disease pressure in crop rotation.

The Conservationist of the Year is selected each year by the Jackson District NCRCS Staff.