- Ten acres. Maybe not much to work with, but for Javier Mancha it was the acreage he obtained and worked by hand when he returned from the Vietnam War in 1969. It was his start.
JAVIER MANCHA, left, visits with NRCS district conservationist Serafin Aguirre about pasture conditions and grazing plan for his cattle.
In 1975, Mancha entered into a Long Term Agreement (LTA) with what was known as the USDA-Soil Conservation Service, now the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Through this agreement, he applied a variety of conservation practices to his Rosita Valley farm. He started and completed critical land treatment, land leveling, irrigation water management and irrigation canal lining.
“USDA-NRCS is part of the reason I can have such satisfaction as a farmer and rancher today,” Mancha says. “They helped me learn about the business. I diversified my crops so that each year I would have something to sell.”
Mancha didn’t stop at 40 acres of farmland. He bought 500 acres of irrigated pastureland in El Indio that had been abandoned, abused and overgrown with mesquite and other undesirable brush. He turned again to NRCS for guidance and put together a conservation plan that would help achieve his goals to heal the land.
“I have enough land to support my family; I do not want anymore,” Mancha says. “I just want to work on what I have and make it better.”
He used a root plow for brush removal and established a test plot to see how the land would respond. The program succeeded and opened the door for several practices that now lets the land support a cow/calf operation.
Mancha worked through the NRCS-Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to root- plow and remove undesirable trees and brush growing in his pastureland. He built cross-fences.
He also used NRCS technical assistance to improve the existing irrigation system. The ranch is located about a half-mile from the Rio Grande, and through the intricate irrigation system Mancha receives the tail water from the more than 90 miles of canal structure to water livestock and irrigate his thick stand of Tifton 85 and coastal Bermuda.
“The Maverick County Water District #1 is responsible for the irrigation system,” Mancha explains. “The main canal broke five weeks ago and you could see how our farming and ranching community relies on that water.”
Crops were wilting on the roadside and for some residents drinking water was at an all-time low. Mancha, who serves as a director on the Maverick County Water District #1, worked with his fellow board members to repair the structure and return water to the land as fast as they could.
Mancha is currently in his fourth year as a Maverick County Soil and Water Conservation District chairman and continues to pursue his own conservation education and share with others.
“Mr. Mancha has done so much in the last four years for our district,” says Serafin Aguirre, NRCS district conservationist in Eagle Pass. “The board has sent five high school students to Junction for the Youth Range Workshop, held district fund raisers and overall been more active within the community.”