Watering 10 acres of vegetables with a garden hose may seem like a daunting task. But for one Sevier County, Ark., farmer, it was the only way to keep his crops alive.
Lee Pauley, an 84-year-old farmer from Mineral Springs, Ark., plants and harvests produce to sell at the Hope and Texarkana farmers’ markets. And, thanks to an Environmental Quality Incentives Program project on his property, keeping his vegetables watered has become much easier.
Through EQIP, a program offered by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Pauley was able to install an irrigation well to water his crops. The well is equipped with a submersible pump that pumps 40 gallons of water a minute allowing Pauley to use drip lines for irrigation.
“I wish I had known about the Natural Resources Conservation Service when I was young,” Pauley said. “NRCS saved me more than $10,000 to install the well. The lowest bid was $14,000. NRCS paid $6,200 to put in the well. My out-of-pocket cost was minimal. This has been a mighty nice experience.”
“The new well makes it more efficient for Mr. Pauley and he does not have to work as hard to get water to take care of his crops,” said Burthel Thomas, assistant state conservationist for field operations in south Arkansas, “Mr. Pauley is now irrigating the majority of his 10-acre vegetable farm. The water from the well has improved the quality and quantity of his vegetables. He no longer has to irrigate with a water hose.”
Precious Williams from the Silas H. Hunt Community Development Corporation and Kandi Hunt from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff had previously told Pauley about NRCS. They assembled a group of farmers who wanted to improve their quality of vegetables for the farmers’ market at Hope and surrounding areas Texarkana and Washington. Pauley knew some other farmers who had worked with Rural Development, but he knew of no farmers who had worked with NRCS.
Pauley grows a variety of produce such as peas, watermelon, potatoes, onions, cabbage, squash, corn, tomatoes and peppers. He plants and harvests his farm alone.
Because growing vegetables is very labor intensive, Pauley accommodates his advanced age by placing 5-gallon buckets upside down in various sections of the farm so he can sit and rest between harvesting his produce. When harvest time comes, some of the buckets are turned right side up and used to harvest his crops.
“I’ve been farming for 70 years,” said Pauley. “I like farming and enjoy being out on the farm, planting and watching it grow.”