Atascosa County Soil and Water Conservation District #307 held its 51st annual awards prgram on June 14 at Poteet VFW Hall.
Michael Korus was master of ceremonies for the event. Pledge of Allegiance was given by Jesse Pawelek and Pat West delivered the invocation. Dinner was catered by Larry’s Catering.
Brett Slomchinski Conservation Farmer Award
Brett Slomchinski grew up and was raised in Atascosa County, and has resided in Atascosa County his entire life. Farming has been a part of him through it all, as he was driving a tractor long before he was driving a truck. He graduated from Pleasanton High School in 2002, and went on to receive a Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural Mechanics and Horticulture from Sam Houston State University. He also runs a club calf operation of over 200 head of cross bred cows. Brett has been a director of Atascosa County Cattleman’s association for several years, and has also served as treasurer of the board. He is a member of South Texas Peanut Growers board and has served as Vice Chairman of the board.
Brett has been farming alongside his father, Bill Slomchinski, since 2007 upon returning home from college. Together they farm over 1,200 acres consisting of peanuts, cotton, peas, green beans, milo, and oats. They continually work with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to improve their land for not only their crops but their livestock. Currently they are preparing the fields for peanuts, and continuing the care of the cotton fields. Their goal is to produce a cleaner and higher quality cotton.
With their goal in mind Brett and Bill have several irrigation lines with the largest one being at over 1,000 feet, and it puts out about 750 gallons of water a minute. Brett is in the process of spraying a blend of herbicide and pesticides on the cotton. It’s the time of year when they spray pesticides for flea hoppers. When it comes time to harvest the cotton it will be picked and not stripped allowing them to produce a more cleaner cotton at a higher quality with less “trash” in it. After the cotton is picked Brett will then go through a two-step process to destroy the cotton.
The cotton is destroyed to make room then for the next crop. This year the next crop will be peanuts. The fields are shredded then sprayed with 24D solution to help kill the cotton plants. The field is then disked, and stumps are burned out for optimal planting with less weeds. They are also concerned about the soil conservation of their fields. In some cases, a field may be more susceptible to wind and water erosion. In the case of a field being more at risk the cotton is killed and then a roller cultivator with rolling baskets is used to leave the dead vegetation on top to prevent such erosions. The Cultivator that Brett uses also allows for a thirty-day herbicide to be cultivated under during the cultivation of the dead cotton.
Many things are done to prepare and continue what Brett grew up doing, but he wouldn’t love it as much if it wasn’t for his loving and supportive family. In 2007, Brett married his high school sweetheart, Lindsey Rakowitz, and together they have two daughters, Makenna 7, and Camryn 3. Lindsey graduated from Texas A&M University in 2006 and has been managing a wholesale landscape nursery in San Antonio ever since. Both coming from farming backgrounds, Brett and Lindsey are enjoying raising their girls in the same fashion. The traditions of a farming lifestyle run deep within his family and will continue for many years to come.
Thank you Mr. Slomchinski for your love of conservation, Congratulations!
Gus and Susan Gonzalez Conservation Rancher Award
This year’s Conservation Rancher Award goes to Gus and Susan Gonzalez. They are involved in many organizations. Both are Directors Emeritus for the San Antonio Livestock Exposition, having been part of SALE since 1982. Gus currently serves as Vice-President of the Independent Cattleman’s Association: and is an active member of the Poteet Lions Club.
Their story begins when Gus and Susan married, they purchased 50 acres in Bexar County. Gus was a San Antonio Fireman and part of the San Antonio Fire Department Association. He also served for 19 years on the East Central School Board where Gus and Susan’s two children went to school. With Gus and Susan instilling their love for livestock and ranch life in their kids; they began to be involved in the East Central FFA Chapter. Wanting to make sure their children and others had the best opportunities available to them Gus and Susan volunteered on as East Central FFA Booster Members.
In 2005 186 acres became available in Atascosa County. Gus and Susan followed their dream further South. Gus retired in 2006 and started working on his dream of being a rancher. When Gus and Susan first purchased their property, it was unmanaged and overgrown. After doing most of the land clearing himself, the property started looking more and more like Gus had dreamed about. However, with forty head of cattle and no cross fences Gus realized his investment would need to be better utilized.
One day on their way to Rockport Gus and Susan noticed the NRCS sign. Gus having been to conventions and seeing the booth he had an idea of what NRCS does. He decided to stop in and ask what NRCS had available to him. Working closely with the District Conservationist they began to build a plan for Gus and Susan’s’ property. Following the NRCS guidelines Gus was approved for 4,200 feet of fence. He drove 380 Tposts himself and recruited the help of his son with machinery to do the rest. The District Conservationist also helped plan a multiuse pasture that was sectioned off with a single strand hotwire fence.
Gus being pleased with his experience and how well his land would be utilized for grazing, he then put his new rotational plan to work. However, it was soon realized that there was not water to every pasture. Gus again called upon NRCS for help.
NRCS then helped Gus and Susan plan a waterline system that would allow more water to be distributed throughout the ranch with the least amount of work and pipe. Gus was approved for over 700 feet of water line to run from his existing well. With water in the new pastures now Gus can use a new rotational plan.
Gus and Susan are pleased with the results and are continuing to build on Gus’s dream of being a rancher. They continue to bale hay from the hot-wired pasture and make sure the cattle never over graze too much of their other pastures. Gus and Susan work closely with their children to ask them for ideas and what they believe might help. Gus and Susan’s goal are to have a functional cattle operation and have land to divide and leave to their children when the time comes.
Gus and Susan recently worked with NRCS for training purposes. They invited a group of 10 NRCS District Conservationists to their home for a small one-hour presentation. The presentation allowed the Conservationists to ask Gus about his experience and what he thinks the pros and the cons are of the NRCS programs. The NRCS Conservationists were also able to see the way our local district works compared to the district operations of their own area or state.
Thank you, Gus and Susan, for all your volunteered hours spent improving the community, the love you both have for the conservation of the land, and leaving a better place for your children. Congratulations Mr. and Mrs. Gonzalez!