0

Organic farmer honored

Special Photo. Nicholas Donck, left, and his son Gillen accept the Conservationist of the Year award from the Upper Ocmulgee River Soil and Water Conservation District.

Special Photo. Nicholas Donck, left, and his son Gillen accept the Conservationist of the Year award from the Upper Ocmulgee River Soil and Water Conservation District.

NEWBORN -- Nicholas Donck, owner of Crystal Organic Farm in Newborn, has been named Newton County Conservationist of the Year by the Upper Ocmulgee River Soil and Water Conservation District.

Donck started Crystal Organic Farm in 1994 on his family's 175-acre property. He uses about 15 acres to produce organic crops year-round. Donck was recognized for numerous conservation practices he implements on the farm, including using drip tape for irrigation, which saves water by putting it only where needed and at metered amounts for crops. Fertilizer used on the farm is certified organic and has been composted and is applied by soil sample recommendations. Donck also practices crop rotation and plants cover crops to protect and improve the soil.

"Our resources are dwindling. People are very short-term thinking; they don't think about the generations to come," Donck said of why conservation is important.

Donck has 20 hoop houses on his property. Hoop houses are basically greenhouses constructed of a plastic roof over flexible piping. They require no electricity but are heated by solar radiation. Donck has been approved for another hoop house through the Environmental Quality Incentive Program, which has also allowed him to affordably dig a well to supply water to his crops in remote areas on the farm. He has also received assistance to implement cover crops and buffers around fields.

Donck delivers his

produce to Atlanta restaurants and farmers markets. Crops produced on his farm include sweet potatoes, kale, collards, peppers, tomatoes, corn, strawberries and arugula lettuce.

He said there's nothing like organic farming for variety and taste.

"So much of our food is branded and genetically modified ... There are thousands of varieties and most people only eat one. You can't find the stuff I grow at Kroger," he said.

You can find it at Morningside Farmers Market in Atlanta every Saturday. Donck said he hopes one day soon to open his farm to customers who want to purchase fresh from the field.

For more information on Crystal Organic Farm, visit http://crystalorganicfarm.wordpress.com.