Inez farmer among 18 recipients of Young Farmer Grant

  • 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 ...

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  • 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.