The Ogeechee River Conservation District presented the 2020 Conservationist of the Year award for Candler County on March 26, 2021, to Jay McCranie.
The Conservationist of the Year awards are presented to individuals or businesses in each of the District’s six counties (Bulloch, Candler, Effingham, Evans, Screven, and Tattnall) who demonstrate exceptional stewardship of the natural resources of their land and support their community. This is the 70th year that the district has presented this award.
During the presentation, held on the McCranie Farm, Jay and his wife Traci were presented the award by the Ogeechee River District supervisors from Candler County, David Spaid and Morgan Trapnell.
Spaid told those present a little about the district and why they, the Candler County supervisors, had selected Jay McCranie as the recipient of the 2020 award.
While Jay and Traci’s children were unable to attend, Jay wanted to acknowledge them -- Cody (Fallon) McCranie, Jacy McCranie, Lexi Hadden, Liz Ann Hadden and Lucas Hadden -- and thank them for the support they have been to him and Traci.
Both of Jay’s grandfathers (who, unfortunately, passed away before he was born) farmed in Tattnall County, and his dad purchased a farm here in Candlerunty in 1977 after managing a local farming operation. He farmed cotton, peanuts and corn and had a farrow to finish hog operation.
He was the recipient of the NRCS Conservationist of the Year in 1982. At that time, the award was commonly known as the Man of the Year award.
While we were visiting the blueberry field on the morning we presented the award to Jay, he brought us a picture of his dad receiving his award.
While showing us the photo he told us about the land we were standing on and how this very land was once a wash out, but his dad worked to put in terraces on the land. Building terraces allows the land to hold through rain and irrigation.
Hearing Jay talk about how his dad worked the land, I could hear how proud he was of his father and how proud he is to continue that legacy of working the land in sustainable and now organic practices.
Jay said he was blessed to be able to purchase the farm from his father in 2002 due to his health declining and the changing farm atmosphere. Now they farm cattle, meat goats, and have a Certified Organic Blueberry operation on the land and a couple of leased farms.
The McCranies use multi-species grazing, rotational grazing and winter overseeding of pastures with legumes and winter annuals in their livestock operation and composting and mulching in the organic blueberry operation and provide a pollinator habitat.
In addition to being good stewards of the land, they are stewards of the watersheds and wildlife by providing conservation borders to our ponds and branches and having feeders, food plots and waterfowl nesting structures including duck boxes and geese nesting platforms.
McCranie Farm and the family have hosted many tours over the years and have welcomed Candler County 4-H, Metter High School FFA, Young Farmers and the local Chamber of Commerce to visit.
Beyond the local area the McCranie Farm has hosted the Georgia Young Farmer tour, the Georgia Grown tour and the Taste of Georgia tour.
Recently they were featured on GPB’s A Fork In The Road television series highlighting the blueberry operation.
Mr. McCranie said, “I have been blessed to be named the Georgia Jr Chamber of Commerce Farmer of the Year for Georgia and the Georgia Farm Bureau District Farmer of the Year. And even though we have an off-farm job, it is truly a blessing to be a small part of this farm community of Candler County and the state of Georgia.”
Listening to him talk the day of our presentation it is clear that McCranie Farm is a point of pride for him and his family. I myself cannot wait to return and get a basket full of organic blueberries.
It was an honor to represent the Ogeechee River Conservation District and the Georgia Association of Conservation Districts as we presented the 2020 Conservationist of the Year award to Jay D. McCranie.