October 22, 2021

Michael Maxwell of Heard County named 2021 Conservationist of the Year

Pictured (L-R): Denney Rogers-Chairman of West GA Soil and Water Conservation District, Lee Boone-Chairman of Heard County Board of Commissioners, Ralph Caldwell-District Supervisor for West GA Soil and Water Conservation District, Melanie Maxwell, Michael Maxwell-2021 Conservationist of the Year

(Franklin, GA) — West Georgia Soil and Water Conservation District held their Annual Banquet on September 11, 2021 at the farm of Mr. Tommy Waldrop in Winston, GA.

During this event, the Conservation District announced Mr. Michael Maxwell as their 2021 Conservationist of the Year.

The Conservationist of the Year Award is presented to an individual living within the Conservation District who exhibits a strong commitment to land conservation through utilization of best management practices and promotion of conservation education.

Michael Maxwell and his family own and manage a 780-acre farm in Heard County, and they are currently exploring the idea of submitting their property for consideration as a Centennial Farm.

The family has the original land lottery deed issued by the State of Georgia in 1830, and the core 250 acres of the farm has been in the Maxwell family ever since.

Michael has been fortunate to be able to add additional adjacent parcels to the property during his lifetime to create their current holding of 780 acres.

As you can imagine with such a long history, he has a deep connection to the land and the surrounding area.

There is a two-room log cabin on the property that served as Michael and his wife Melanie’s first home together when they married in 1977. One room of this cabin predates the Civil War, and the other room was added on shortly after the war.

The first additional acreage to be added to the Maxwell Farm consisted of 121 acres of adjoining land accessed from Roosterville Road. Michael’s grandfather had lent the previous owner of that property the money to purchase the land in 1929 during the Great Depression and never asked him to repay the loan.

As a result, the gentleman refused to sell or give the land to his own children and instead sold the land to Michael for $300.00/acre in 1980.

Michael has strived to honor the legacy of the farm and has improved the character and function of the land by implementing conservation practices throughout the property. His land management objectives center around his passion for wildlife and forestry, and those passions are reflected everywhere you look on the land.

He has worked extensively with the Natural Resources Conservation Service office in Carrollton and Georgia Forestry Commission to help achieve his management goals and plans to continue working with them into the future.

Michael also has a passion for beekeeping and protecting native pollinators which drives much of the activity on his farm. He is dedicated to providing food and habitat for pollinators and beneficial insects during every season of the year and works in beneficial plantings and practices wherever he can on the property.

The Maxwells are professional beekeepers and work 21 hives for honey production every year.

Michael conducts many forest management activities on the property, always with wildlife habitat in mind. He conducts prescribed burns in patches of approximately 60 acres on an annual basis.

The purpose of this approach is not only to reduce fuel in the forest floor to prevent future wildfire, but also to create a mosaic of vegetation in several stages of development. This mosaic creates a more diverse understory and provides wildlife habitat for a diverse number of species ranging from deer and turkey to songbirds, bats and insects.

Another way that Michael has been creating structural diversity to benefit wildlife is through the creation of small patch openings which he establishes on a rotating annual basis.  These openings allow for herbaceous plants to naturally regenerate in these otherwise forested areas, providing additional food, cover, and habitat for wildlife.

Additionally, snags, den trees, and coarse wood debris are retained or developed to provide wildlife nesting areas and shelter for songbirds, reptiles and small mammals. Fruit and nut producing trees and shrubs have also been planted throughout the property to provide additional food sources keeping wildlife fed all year long.

The Maxwells are also in the process of planting catalpa trees to provide habitat for catalpa worms. Four ponds are managed and stocked on the farm. These ponds create a useful habitat for wild ducks and other fowl as well as opportunities for fishing.

Future plans include the creation of additional bat habitat to expand and support the existing bat population on the farm. Their ultimate plan is to pass this property on to their children and grandchildren as it was passed on to them. The farm is and will continue to be a legacy to the Maxwell family.

The West Georgia Soil and Water Conservation District also recognizes Michael Maxwell and his family for their commitment to spreading the conservation message to other farmers and youth in the area.

Mr. Maxwell participates annually in the District’s Heard County Farm Day by providing information on beekeeping to the attending elementary school students. His time and expertise have been a wonderful asset in bringing up the next generation of Heard County farmers. He has also generously provided his farm in the past as a site for conservation demonstrations and field days with the Georgia Forestry Commission.

The West Georgia Soil and Water Conservation District is a unit of state government that directs natural resource management programs in Carroll, Coweta, Douglas, Haralson and Heard Counties.

The Conservation District works with farmers, landowners, homeowners, and with other units of government to educate and actively promote programs and practices that support the conservation, and use and development of soil, water, and related resources.

More information can be found at www.gacd.us/westgeorgia.

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