Habitat & Conservation  |  03/28/2024

Jason Cater Honored with Quail Forever 2023/24 Farmer of the Year Award


Arkansas native has created over 300 acres of quail and pollinator habitat

Quail Forever’s 2023/2024 Farmer of the Year Award, sponsored by John Deere, is presented to Jason Cater of Monticello, Arkansas. The annual award recognizes the innovative use of precision ag technology and utilization of data to identify profitable solutions for agriculture and wildlife on working lands throughout America.

A native of southeast Arkansas, Cater and his family run a successful row crop and cattle operation, balancing productive agriculture with extensive wildlife habitat development. Several years ago, he obtained a new parcel of property for his operation, which he recognized held negligible agricultural value, but tremendous conservation opportunity. Starting with a total of 644 acres, he split the property in half — creating 322 acres of quail and pollinator habitat.

“As we’ve been able to acquire more property, we’re putting more and more emphasis on how to do better with conservation practices,” Cater said. “Whether it’s on the cattle side of things, the row crops, or our pollinator plantings. We’re always looking for ways to improve the soil, species diversity, as well as the habitat for all the wildlife we have here.”

Since planting his new pollinator habitat in the late winter of 2021, Cater continues to manage the land with prescribed fire. With help from local Quail Forever team members, he was also able to incorporate native shrubs into his pollinator plantings, creating escape cover and foraging opportunities for quail and other wildlife.

“Private landowners are one of the most important conservation partners we have, particularly in a state like Arkansas that’s over 90 percent privately owned. Jason and his family are such a tremendous example of what’s possible when we work together,” said Ryan Parker, Quail Forever’s Arkansas state coordinator. “When we look at a species like bobwhite quail, whose population is declining range wide, and that range covers a state like Arkansas, it’s critical that we work on private lands and form these kinds of relationships with landowners.”

In addition to pollinator and quail habitat, Cater has also worked with local Quail Forever and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) staff to implement a highly effective rotational grazing plan for his cattle, ensuring both a healthy landscape and successful ranching operation.

“We partner with Quail Forever on the Farmer of the Year award because we share common goals on conservation and environmental sustainability, and the Cater family epitomizes those values,” said Jason Tucker, the John Deere US sales manager in the western region. “Jason wants to do everything he can for the wildlife on his property, while still maintaining a working landscape.”

Thank you to national sponsor John Deere for supporting the conservation work of farmers and ranchers throughout the pheasant and quail range.