In November, Mike Waters learned that his family had been selected as the 2015 Farm Family of the Year by the Statesboro-Bulloch County Chamber of Commerce Agriculture Committee.
Last week, the Waters family's farm was again recognized, this time as Bulloch County's 2015 Conservationist of the Year by the bankers and supervisors of the Ogeechee River Soil and Water Conservation District. Waters was honored during the 65th Annual Conservationist of the Year banquet at the Evans County Wildlife Club in Hagan.
Waters Farms is a family partnership between Mike and his mother, Marie Waters. The majority of their farming operation is located around the crossroads of Harville Road and Highway 46 in the Nevils community.
Farming has been the primary occupation for the Waters family for four generations. Both sets of Mike's grandparents were farmers in Nevils.
Mike started his farming career with his uncle Vernon Waters while he was in high school and continued while attending Georgia Southern College. The two worked together for eight years until Vernon passed away in 1988.
Then, Mike and his father, Thomas Waters, partnered to continue the farming operation and established Waters Farms. At the time, Thomas was employed with Newton Ford. They continued to plant corn, peanuts, soybeans and eventually cotton, and they added a beef cattle operation for diversification.
In 1998, Mike's father passed away, and his mother, Marie, joined the partnership. In addition to assisting with the farming operation, Marie works full time with Dabbs, Hickman, Hill and Cannon CPA firm in Statesboro, where she has enjoyed a 49-year career. She has served as the treasurer of Trinity Baptist Church for more than 20 years and sings weekly in the choir there.
The Waters family is very active and involved in the local community. Mike's brother, Marty Waters, wife Jessica and their three children live in Nevils as well.
The family currently farms approximately 1,200 acres - 100 acres under center pivot irrigation - of cotton, peanuts and soybeans and maintains 100 acres of pasture for the beef cattle operation.
In addition to their row crop operation, the Waters family owns and manages
250 acres of pine trees that were planted about 20 years ago on highly erodible land. Mike said his management practice has always focused on improving the land, water quality and wildlife habitat. This is evidenced by the enrollment of some of their cropland in the Bobwhite Quail Initiative.
Mike said he was inspired by his Grandfather Roberts to be a good steward of the land. He recalls his grandfather telling him to treat his land like he does his bank account - you can't always take from it; you must put back and add to it to maintain a healthy balance.
Georgia's 40 Soil and Water Conservation Districts are led by 370 elected and appointed district supervisors. Along with Georgia Soil and Water Conservation Commission state staff, these local community leaders work in voluntary cooperation with private landowners to encourage the conservation of the state's natural resources that are the basis of economic growth and prosperity. Aided by the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service, the effort strives to ensure productive lands and healthy ecosystems.
In addition to Mike representing Bulloch County, Conservation of the Year awards also were given to William Callaway Jr. of Evans County, Ronald Morgan Sr. of Effingham County, Edward Boddiford III of Screven County, Shane Brannen of Tattnall County and David Coursey of Candler County.