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Rural Champions Utilize USDA Programs to Promote Sustainable Farmland Practices

Posted by Talishia Sears, Web Communications Intern in USDA Results Initiatives Energy Forestry
Sep 16, 2011
Rick Huszagh and Crista Carrell, Down to Earth Energy, Georgia
Rick Huszagh and Crista Carrell, Down to Earth Energy, Georgia

Cross posted from the White House Rural Champions of Change website:

When Rick Huszagh and Crista Carrell purchased part of her family’s farm in 1995, their focus was on farmland preservation as much as the creation of a successful business enterprise.

Mountain Creek Farm started out selling Boer goats to purebred and commercial breeders and bermuda hay to neighboring horse farms. Goat kids were raised each spring to sell for breeding stock or meat.  The couple improved their farm marketing by participating in shows, performance tests, and field days.  The farm’s proximity to the University of Georgia facilitated their involvement in herd management studies related to the control of internal parasites. They took full advantage of resources offered by the Cooperative Extension Service and the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and participated in the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).

Rick and Crista’s interest in sustainability issues on the farm led them to research and implement small-scale biodiesel production for the tractors in 2005. In 2006, they intensified their renewable energy involvement when they were awarded a Renewable Energy for America Program (REAP) grant and USDA guaranteed loan. Along with like-minded partners, they established Down to Earth Energy, a commercial biodiesel production facility located adjacent to the farm. Concern with some of the inefficiencies in the biodiesel process led them to partner with the University of Georgia to develop a more effective catalyst.  The concept was further funded by an EPA Small Business Innovation Research Grant (SBIR) and a Venturelab grant.

Crista was appointed a Walton County Soil and Water Conservation District Supervisor in 2006. She has spearheaded the district’s sponsorship of community forestry activities in Monroe and served as the coordinator of Atha Road Elementary School’s outdoor classroom from 2003-2011. Her work as a district supervisor led to her being hired as the first full-time Executive Director of the Georgia Association of Conservation District Supervisors (GACDS) in 2007.