Soil and Water Conservation

Johnston County, North Carolina

River Friendly Farmer


Blue Sky Farms



Eric Walker and his wife, Beth, of Benson, were recognized as the Johnston Soil and Water Conservation District’s 2016 River Friendly Farmer. This award recognizes those individuals who take extra steps to manage the resources on their land to protect water quality. The Walkers enrolled their farm in the Conservation Reserve Program to enhance wildlife habitat and prevent soil erosion. They converted some of the conventional row cropping system on their farm into long leaf pines to establish wildlife habitat and prevent soil erosion. In addition, they converted the rest of their farm into native wild grasses and legumes to enhance wildlife populations of song birds, quail, rabbits, deer and wild turkey. This planting is one of the best examples of native grass stands in the county and has proven to increase the number of birds and wildlife on their farm. The Walkers are pleased that their efforts in conservation have proven beneficial for both soil health, wildlife habitat and water quality.

Eric Walker

PHOTO: Eric Walker, named the 2016 River Friendly Farmer by the Johnston Soil and Water Conservation District, stands near his long leaf pines.


Ben Shields

Ben Shields, of In Good Heart Farm in Clayton, was recognized as the county’s River Friendly Farmer by the Johnston Soil and Water Conservation District. Ben, and his wife Patricia, operate a 6 acre organic farm where they grow produce. A variety of vegetables, strawberries and flowers are grown using methods that do not include GMO’s or genetically modified organisms. With assistance from USDA-NRCS, Ben installed a seasonal high tunnel that allows for the growing season of their crops to be extended during cold weather. They market their goods at the NC Farmers Market in Raleigh and restaurants such as ‘The Irregardless Café. They also offer a CSA, which is a ‘Community Supported Agriculture’ operation. A CSA is where a farmer produces seasonal crops for consumers who commit to a partnership with the producer.   Ben has a background in organic farming where he worked on seven different organic farms in Italy before settling in Johnston County. Ben and Patricia have a son, Elliot, who also participates in the farm chores.

Good Heart Farm