Masters elected NACD secretary-treasurer; Ponder honored
Posted on Mar 08, 2023 at 0:00 AM
Georgia Association of Conservation Districts President Mark Masters has been elected secretary-treasurer of the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD), and Tift County’s Brian Ponder was named NACD’s 2022 Friend of Conservation during the organization’s meeting in New Orleans in February.
Masters is the second person from Georgia to hold an elected NACD officer position in the organization’s 77-year history. John Redding of Walton and Clay counties is a past NACD president.
NACD represents more than 3,000 conservation districts with a mission to promote responsible management and stewardship of natural resources through grassroots advocacy, education and partnerships.
As executive director of the Georgia Water Planning & Policy Center at Albany State University, Mark has worked extensively on sustainable water management in Georgia and beyond. He has been a local conservation leader as a district supervisor for over 10 years and graduated in the inaugural cohort of the National Conservation Foundation’s Next Generation Leadership Institute.
“Conservation districts will play a critical role in meeting the natural resource challenges of today and in the future,” Masters said. “I look forward to representing Georgia and our nation’s conservation leaders in this important work.”
Masters lives and farms in Terrell County with his wife, Amy, and daughters Lilly, Sally and Molly.
Brian Ponder, co-owner of Pond-O-Gold Farms and Brian and Ken Ponder Farms located in Omega, was named the 2022 Friend of Conservation for his outstanding contributions to natural resource conservation.
Brian is a fourth-generation farmer from Tift County and still lives on the original farm that his great-grandfather moved to in 1884. The farm, which began as 96 acres, has been in the family for 138 years. The Ponders still find something to do every year to try and make it more productive while taking care of it. He and his family now farm 3,000 acres of peanuts, cotton, corn, watermelons, pecans, and pine timber.
Ponder’s farm practices include reduction of water usage and erosion control through strip tillage. His father was big on conservation back in the ’70s and taught those practices to Brian and his brother, Ken.
Soil health, conserving water, and reducing diesel emissions are a few of the factors that go into the management of his farm. All of the peanuts and cotton on the farm are strip-tilled into cover crops which reduces soil disturbance and erosion. Additionally, they are working toward getting all cover crops in without any tillage. He utilizes the installation of terraces and waterways to reduce erosion and helps other local farmers with installing terraces and waterways.
In terms of conserving water, all of the Ponders’ irrigation systems have drop-nozzle technology, regulators, are low pressure, and almost all have been converted from diesel pumping systems to electricity. All of these measures are to help reduce water usage and to improve efficiency. He also uses organic matter for fertilizers such as chicken litter and gin trash.
Beyond conservation measures put in place on his farm, Brian has been very active in the conservation community. He has been a district supervisor for 20 years for the Middle South Georgia Soil & Water Conservation District and serves as GACD Group 3 vice president. He has been Tift County Conservationist of the Year, Tift County Farmer of the Year, ABAC Alumni of the Year, and served on the Conservation Tillage Alliance.
Ponder was also named the 2022 Conservationist of the Year by the Georgia Association of Conservation Districts.