A Newton County farmer is the Georgia County Agents Association's choice as its 2020 Outstanding Young Farmer.
Lewis Banks operates a 1,000-acre farm in southeast Newton County near Mansfield.
Banks saw an opportunity to make a living operating a sustainable farm by bringing together the farming knowledge passed onto him from his father and the latest research in sustainable practices, a news release stated.
Crop diversification and rotation is Banks’ first line of defense against pests and disease. For that reason, Banks includes corn, cotton, wheat, sorghum and soybeans as his cash crops.
In addition, this year he started a 200-acre organic row crop farm. Banks utilizes no-till and strip tillage for greater soil stewardship. Soil and water conservation are essential because 200 acres of his land borders the Alcovy River.
The local soil and water council has noted Banks’ conservation methods, such as building terraces, reduced tillage and working with local city and Georgia Environmental Protection Division. The Upper Ocmulgee River Soil and Water Conservation District awarded him with its “Conservationist of the Year” award earlier this year.
Banks also works in collaboration with city and state officials to implement a municipal nutrient management plan for row crop farming on public lands. To insure soil and waterway protection, Banks follows EPD plans for waste disposal by following its nutrient management plans.
To document his environmental protection efforts are working, Banks monitors soil fertility and crop nutrition with tissue analysis. He said he values other farmers’ and the Newton County Extension Agent’s assistance with his efforts.
The purpose of the Outstanding Young Farmers Program is to bring about a greater interest in the named farmer to foster better urban-rural relations through the understanding of the farmers’ endeavors, to develop a further appreciation for their contributions and achievements, and to inform the agribusiness community of the growing urban awareness of farmers’ importance and impact on America’s economy.
Ashley Best, who is the UGA Extension Newton County Agricultural and Natural Resources agent, nominated Banks. His application will be judged at the national level and results will be announced in February 2021.
Banks and his wife, Brittany, have two small children, Caroline and Brett.