MANSFIELD — Lewis Banks, a farmer with roots deep in Newton County, has been recognized as the 2020 Outstanding Young Farmer by the Georgia County Agents Association.
Banks, a lifelong Newton County resident and graduate of Eastside High School, draws on a farming heritage passed down from his father, Lee Banks, to make a living operating a sustainable farm using the latest research in sustainable practices.
Banks said he feels fortunate to be able to farm for a living, acknowledging that it is difficult to launch a career in agriculture for someone not born into farming.
“It’s all about the right place, the right time, and the people you know,” he said.
Banks operates a 1,000-acre farm in Newton County where crop diversification and rotation are his first line of defense with pest and disease control. For that reason, Banks includes corn, cotton, wheat, sorghum and soybeans as his cash crops.
Banks utilizes no-till and strip tillage for greater soil stewardship. Two hundred acres of his land border the Yellow River, so soil and water conservation are essential. The local soil and water council has noted Banks’ conservation methods of building terraces, reduced tillage and working with state and local environmental agencies. He was named Conservationist of the Year in 2019.
In addition, this year Banks has started a 200-acre organic row crop farm on land that he cleared. By using land that had not been conventionally farmed, Banks said he was able to have the land certified organic immediately rather than waiting the three years normally required to eliminate chemicals from the soil.
Banks also works in collaboration with city and state officials to implement a municipal nutrient management plan for row crop farming on public lands. To ensure soil and waterway protection, Banks follows EPD plans for waste disposal by following their nutrient management plans. To document his environmental protection efforts are working, Banks monitors soil fertility and crop nutrition with tissue analysis.
The purpose of the Outstanding Young Farmers Program is to encourage better urban-rural relations through the understanding of farmers’ endeavors, to develop a further appreciation for farmers’ contributions and achievements, and to inform the agribusiness community of the growing urban awareness of farmers’ importance and impact on America’s economy. Banks was nominated by the UGA Extension Newton County Agricultural and Natural Resources Agent Ashley Best. His application will be judged at the national level and results will be announced in February 2021.