Sharon Whitson is named 2018 Conservationist of the Year
By Kim Swindell Wood | January 21, 2019 8:20 am
The White County Soil Conservation District is proud to announce the 2018 Conservationist of the Year.
The recipient is Sharon Whitson, owner/operator of Fountain Head Farm. The farm is located in the northern end of White County, one mile east of the Hampton’s Crossroads exit from Highway 111. The farm was purchased by Whitson’s late husband, Terry Whitson, in 1972, from Nellie Meadows. The Meadows family operated a dairy farm until the death of Nellie Meadows’ husband, Joe Meadows.
Terry Whitson’s plans for the farm were to enlarge and update the milk parlor and continue the operation of the dairy. Those plans were fulfilled, and a dairy was operated on this farm for 25 years. At the closing of the dairy operation in 1998, Terry and Sharon Whitson developed a beef cow/calf operation. With Terry Whitson’s passing in 2017, Sharon Whitson, with the help of her son Kayd Whitson, continues to manage a commercial herd of 50 mama cows that are Angus/Limousine crosses and strives to be responsible stewards of the land. Kayd Whitson has been a huge asset to make it possible to maintain the farming operations. Sharon Whitson is presently serving on the White-Van Buren Cattlemen’s Board of Directors.
Terry and Sharon Whitson were married six months after the purchase of the farm, on July 1, 1973. They each moved one mile from their parents’ homes to their farm in the Fountain Head community. Terry and Sharon Whitson met at Fountain Head Elementary School, which was built in 1953 on a corner of the present farm. Two sons were born to Terry and Sharon Whitson. Terry Whitson was an auctioneer/real estate broker, tool and die maker by trade, and a farmer at heart.
Sharon Whitson also grew up on farm, milking cows by hand with her dad and working many hot summer days in the tobacco patch. Sharon Whitson retired from the White County School System after 35 years of teaching.
Sharon Whitson was always very involved in all aspects of the farm labor, from building fences or digging thistles to working cattle. Terry and Sharon Whitson worked side by side to limit the cost of hiring farm labor.
Sharon Whitson’s grandfather told Terry Whitson, upon his decision to purchase Fountain Head Farm, “That old farm is so poor, it won’t rust a nail.” So they set out to make changes and improvements. With the help of the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the White County Soil Conservation Service, Fountain Head Farm has seen many improvements. This includes cropland conversion on all row crop fields to fescue, orchard grass, and clover.
Sharon Whitson has worked diligently to control warm and cool season weeds to improve pasture quality. The livestock pastures have been subdivided into smaller paddocks to utilize rotational grazing. Freeze- proof automatic waterers were installed. Rock heavy-use areas were constructed to limit hay waste and soil erosion. Exclusion fencing was built from the spring that runs through the farm to limit heavy traffic areas, improve water quality, prevent soil erosion, and to protect wildlife.
Sharon Whitson’s hard work ethic and exemplary management skills have made Fountain Head Farm a sustainable and productive operation in White County with the utmost eye appeal.
White County Soil Conservation District is proud to recognize Sharon Whitson as the 2018 Conservationist of the Year. Sharon Whitson would like to dedicate this honor in memory of her husband and his commitment to their family and the preservation of Fountain Head Farm to be passed down to their son and three grandchildren.