Hinds County Soil and Water Conservation District
Barton Farms LLC / Canaan Plantation
David Barton has been farming since 1970. He currently owns a 2,000-acre row crop operation in Raymond, Mississippi – part of which was first farmed by this family in 1937. He owns and operates Canaan Plantation with his wife Martha, son David, daughter-in-law Roxie, and four grandchildren (fifth generation farmers). His second son Barnes lives in South Carolina with his family.
The Bartons produce wheat, soybeans, corn, grain sorghum, cover crops and, occasionally, cotton. Martha provides all the support services for the family business, including managing the office, procuring parts, and handling logistics. Canaan Plantation has hosted field days, no-till demonstrations, conservation equipment demonstrations, teacher workshops, school tours, and other conservation events. And to date, the Barton operation has been featured in the Mississippi Conservation Showcase: Pioneer of Conservation Benefits.
David told NACD he has been using no-till and crop rotation on Canaan Plantation since the mid-1980s. “Our soils are fragile with some slope,” he said. “We primarily started no-till to reduce soil erosion. Recently, we began using cover crops and riparian buffers.” David said he’s had long-term success using nutrient and integrated pest management practices, including split nitrogen application, precision farming methods, water-control structures, overfall pipes, and levees. He has also reduced soil compaction by limiting machine traffic.
“The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) provides incentives for cover crops and drainage structures. It has been helpful to us,” he added. “Initially, we were met with a lot of ridicule and doubt as to whether our practices would succeed. Some things worked, and some things didn’t, but I’ve learned that if you don’t take care of the land, it won’t produce.”
David, who has served in leadership roles for the Hinds County Soil and Water Conservation District and the Mississippi Association Conservation Districts, says the biggest barrier to adopting soil health practices is resistance to change. “People are usually very traditional and don’t want to experiment with new ideas,” he explained. “Through trial and error, we have managed to take care of the soil. Past and present conservation techniques have brought us this far. Our present and future health and livelihoods depend on the investments we make daily to preserve these precious natural resources.”