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Don and Sherry Smith Named conservationists of the year
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Don and Sherry Smith have been named Newton County’s Conservationists of the Year by the Upper Ocmulgee River Soil and Water Conservation District. The award was presented at the district’s annual program for their achievements in soil and water conservation on the farm.

Don and Sherry Smith own and operate Dogwood Sport Horses, a farm that specializes in the breeding of warmblood sporthorses for cross-country, show jumping, and dressage competitions. They began their journey in horses and breeding 30 years ago on a small farm they owned in Jacksonville, Fla. They purchased the current farm in Mansfield in 1996 and moved to Newton County permanently five years ago.

With a lot of hard work and through their love for horses and the land, Mr. and Mrs. Smith have turned Dogwood Sport Horses into a productive, conservative and beautiful operational farm. With the help of the NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program, they have installed restrictive buffer fence around the pond and creeks on the farm. The buffer fence restricts access to the water bodies and prevents the horses from degrading water quality on the farm. They have also installed three alternative water sources for the horses, which consist of water troughs located on 6-inch pads of crusher-run stone which minimizes soil erosion in concentrated areas. Mr. and Smith have also implemented a rotational grazing system and take regular soil samples to apply the correct rates of fertilizer and lime to their pastures. These practices allow the Smith’s more effectively to manage their forage production throughout the year.

Don retired from law practice in Florida in 2003 and his vision of retirement was fulfilled when they moved to Covington for good in 2004. As a child, Don spent every summer in Covington with his grandmother and has many precious memories of his family and friends. Don spends his free time working around the farm and making improvements, and also the occasional game of golf when he has time. Sherry spends her free time enjoying the companionship of the horses and her dogs. She also enjoys drawing, painting and photography.

Don and Sherry’s granddaughter Laci has been raised with horses in her life and is a "natural" when it comes to riding. Laci currently works for a catering firm that specializes in weddings and has also been recently chosen by an agency for some modeling assignments. Being the "people person" that she is, Laci likes to spend her time traveling and meeting new people.

Don and Sherry’s niece Erin Flynn is the "resident" trainer for the farm. Erin has been riding since she was 6 years old and is a committed horse enthusiast, to say the least. Erin is a graduate from Oglethorpe University, works in Atlanta and still manages to ride and train horses at the farm. Erin also finds time to show her horse Royal Ruckus (aka Shorty) at the upper levels of eventing. Erin has advanced with Shorty to the level of "Two Star" in the eventing world which is very high!

Don and Sherry are active in the ministry of The Church at Covington on Highway 142. They are thankful everyday for what they have been provided with and they do their best to protect the blessings of our soil and water resources. For them, living in Georgia has been a dream come true.

The Upper Ocmulgee River Soil and Water Conservation District includes Newton and Jasper counties. The district serves as guardian of the soil and water resources for the citizens of its counties. For more information about the Upper Ocmulgee River Soil and Water Conservation District, please contact the State Soil and Water Conservation Commission Region IV office in Milledgeville at (478) 445-5766.