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Inez farmer among 18 recipients of Young Farmer Grant

By ALLISON MILES
Sept. 24, 2013 at 4:24 a.m.


Full list of 2013's Young Farmer grant recipients*

Kevin J. DeBault

Inez, aquaponics project

Leonard H. Cornelius III

Cedar Lane, crop project

Brad B. Lumpkins

Leonard, livestock project

Jess R. Anderson

Brady, crop and livestock project

Christine M. McCabe

Madisonville, crop project

Jennifer E. Lopez

Bertram, crop and livestock project

Cody F. Halfmann

Miles, crop and livestock project

Justin W. Cave

Ackerly, crop project

Justin M. Bullock

Van, horticulture project

Erin G. Brown

Nacogdoches, crop and livestock project

Lawrence D. McCulloch

Prairie View, livestock project

Matthew D. Danysh

Robstown, crop project

Chad T. Halfmann

Miles, crop and livestock project

Brenon Wade Preston

VanZandt, livestock project

Cavanaugh W. Nweze

Houston, horticulture project

Juan M. Raygoza

Edinburg, crop project

Kristen D. Johnston

Sandia, livestock project

Justin G. Bateman

Lindale, crop and livestock project

*For 2013's second round of grants awarded

Source: Texas Department of Agriculture news release

Some state funding is pushing one Crossroads farmer closer to his goal of sustainable agriculture within the region.

Inez's Kevin J. DeBault, 45, was one of 18 recipients of the Texas Department of Agriculture's Young Farmer Grant Program, according to a department news release. His award - about $7,000, he said - was for his up-and-coming aquaponics operation.

Aquaponics is the growing of plants and vegetables in a water environment, without soil or other organic material, DeBault explained.

He also grows catfish among his plants, he said, which creates a sort of cycle. While fish waste provides plant nutrients, the plants go on to clean the water for the fish.

"It's a very, very efficient means of growing things. Almost nothing is thrown away," he said. "It's kind of a win-win situation."

Farmers and ranchers eligible for the program were those ages 18-45 who plan to create or expand their agricultural businesses in Texas, according to the news release.

With many farmers and ranchers reaching retirement age throughout the Lone Star State, Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples said in the release that it's important to recruit younger Texans to continue the trades.

"The next generation will be tasked with feeding a growing population," he said. "According to USDA, the average age of Texas farmers and ranchers is 59, with only 6 percent of them under the age of 35."

The Texas Legislature in 2009 approved the department of agriculture's Young Farmer Grant Program, according to the release. Ever since, two rounds of grants have gone out each year.

DeBault's grant was part of 2013's second-round winners.

The program is funded through agricultural vehicle registration fees paid by farmers and ranchers.

DeBault's project is still in its infancy - he said he's creating a pilot project now - but he hopes to see things grow and thrive.

The ultimate goal, he said, is to take the farm to the people. Instead of growing vegetables solely on acres of farmland, he said he'd like to see it happen in downtown Victoria, where the produce can be available to the local market.

"This grant is what's giving me the impetus to get things going," he said.

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