Conservation projects and farming in general have been a way of life for Don Morgan, his wife, Edna, and their son, Coley, on their farm in Mentone.
"Coley, now 30, is my right hand man on the farm, and he’s also my best friend," Don said.
Coley and his father developed an unusual father-son camaraderie after Coley suffered a devastating malignancy on his brain.
Don related, "When Coley was five, quite accidentally, we discovered he had medulloblastoma, a brain cancer from which not many people recover. Fortunately, because we pursued treatment from a really professional surgeon in Boston, Mass. Coley became a survival exception."
Coley is now a "live personality" who engages in his daily routine with enthusiasm and miraculous intelligence. Don said Coley has a computer for a brain which enables him to recall information sometimes faster than he could.
Coley partners with his dad and his mother in doing farming operations, like baling hay.
"Coley loves to see those gigantic round bales of hay go tumbling across the field," Don noted.
Don and his protégé work hard to protect and preserve the natural resources on the farm. To help maintain water integrity, they installed fencing to prevent cattle from accessing farm ponds and built gravel pads on which automatic waterers have been installed.
"These waterers require no power source, they don’t freeze in winter and they’re highly durable," Don said.
Following a conservation plan and using practice payments from the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and technical assistance from the DeKalb Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD), the Morgans are realizing their efforts to preserve and protect soil and water. Through the EQIP program, the Morgans have installed 3,000 feet of fencing. This puts them well on their way to setting up a rotational grazing system for their polled Hereford purebred cattle.
Don applauds the guidance and technical assistance made available to his family by James Huber who works with the DeKalb County SWCD.
"Mr. Huber has helped us with what we needed to do in a very professional, non-intimidating way," Don said.
"The Morgans are committed to applying soil and water conservation practices on their farm that provides long-term returns. We are honored to help them in their efforts," said Huber.
The Morgan family has grown Herefords for 30 years. The current herd includes 50 brood cows and five bulls. Their operation includes 200 acres, which they own, and an additional 80 acres, which they lease.
Conservation work planned for the near future includes fencing and cross-fencing another section of the farm and installing another automatic waterer with which they have had such success.
"We’re waiting on a city water line to come by the farm which will allow us a good source of water to launch this effort," Don noted.
Don was a pharmacist for 42 years before he retired to the farm. He owned and operated a drug store in the middle of Valley Head. He remarked about the demise of small town life and infrastructure. He said one of his saddest memories was watching through his store window as the train depot beside the railroad running through the center of town was demolished.
Farming does not take up all of the Morgans’ time. Don said although the family works hard on the farm, particularly in the summers, they don’t allow the work to get in the way of their fun. He and Coley do a lot of fishing. The three of them are die-hard Auburn fans and frequent the "Loveliest Village on the Plains" quite often.