Conservation accolades presented to Indiana’s outstanding natural resource leaders
Note: Links to download high resolution photos of award winners are in the left column of this release.
Indianapolis – Local soil and water conservation leaders who excel as top natural resource leaders were honored this evening at the Annual Conservation Awards Banquet. The event is a highlight of the 68th Annual Conference of Indiana Soil and Water Conservation Districts themed The Power of Conservation: Clean Water, Healthy Soils taking place at the Indianapolis Marriott Downtown.
Over 400 conservationists from all over Indiana were on hand to see conservation’s highest honors presented to individuals and organizations in several categories. “This is conservation at its best,” says Paula Baldwin, president of the Indiana Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts (IASWCD), “when we pay tribute to the people and organizations who tirelessly work to protect our soil and water resources every day.”
The Indiana District Employees Association (IDEA) Star Award was presented to seven outstanding Soil and Water Conservation District staff. They were honored by their peers for the excellent job they do providing conservation resources and services to landowners and other constituents.
IDEA Star Region winners are:
The 2010 Indiana USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Earth Team Award is presented annually to a deserving SWCD and conservation partnership for their local volunteer work supporting conservation. The national program was established in 1981. During fiscal year 2010, approximately 1,250 Indiana Earth Team volunteers donated 21,810 hours contributing more than $450,000 in work to local communities. This supported conservation in 49 NRCS field offices around Indiana.
- North-NW region: Roberta Bischoff, Pulaski County SWCD,
- North-NE region: Rick Glassman, St. Joseph County SWCD,
- South-NW region: Leah Harden, Clinton County SWCD,
- South-NE region: Bettie Jacobs, Jay County SWCD,
- North-SW region: Gwen Dieter, Owen County SWCD,
- North-SE region: Gretchen Rea, Fayette County SWCD, and
- South-SW region: Amanda Bradshaw-Burks, Posey County SWCD.
The 2010 Indiana NRCS Earth Team Award was presented to the Delaware County SWCD and their conservation partners for their work on the John M. Craddock Wetland Nature Preserve. They also received the NRCS National Earth Team Group Volunteer Award for their efforts.
The Conservation Farmer of the Year Award honors Hoosier farmers who actively incorporate and practice conservation on the land. The award is sponsored by the Indiana Farm Bureau, Inc. and Indiana Prairie Farmer Magazine. The five state winners recognized tonight were:
- Tom Menkedick, Decatur County SWCD
Menkedick and his family farm in the southern part of Decatur County. The land is rolling with more slopes than other parts of the county. The farm has many soil types: Cincinnati and Miami silt loams, and Clermont soils are prevalent. Many of the operation’s soils are highly erodible. Menkedick utilizes no-till on virtually all crops to reduce the potential for erosion and compaction. A nutrient management plan also is used in his cattle operation to assure that soil fertility and PH levels are maintained. The pasture is managed to get the maximum benefit from the acres available. Cattle are rotated through four paddocks as needed. Reseeding with red and ladino clovers is done on a rotation, to assure a high quality forage for their cattle. Menkedick has taken advantage of the LARE program to install Heavy Use Area Protection pads. These are used to feed round bales. The pads prevent compaction and erosion from occurring while the cattle are eating. The cattle are also kept out of areas where erosion is likely.
- Norman Schue, Dubois County SWCD
Schue’s farm is in rural Ferdinand where he raises corn, soybeans, beef cattle, pasture, hay and woodlands. His list of conservation practices include tile, WASCOBs (water and sediment control basins), grassed waterways, grade stabilization structures, filter strips, pasture/hay plantings, critical area plantings, a pond, and a diversion. Future plans include doing timber stand improvements in his woods to improve the health and vigor of the trees. Over the years Schue excluded livestock from the woods and ponds, and utilized nutrient and pest management practices. Despite health issues that have slowed him down a little, he still works full time on the farm, which was established in 1852 by his wife, Leona’s family. Schue constructed a pond because he needed water for some open range turkeys, and built two water and sediment control basins with his own equipment. All crop fields have been no-tilled to conserve the land since the early 1990s. Now well advanced in years, Schue still makes the effort to save soil and make a difference on the farm before he passes it on to his family..
- Pat and Philip Karst, Huntington County SWCD
The Karst’ operation includes corn, soybeans, popcorn and wheat. They utilize no-till farming, nutrient and pest management, field borders and cover crops in their grain operation. Both Pat and his father, Philip, were raised on the same farmstead, in the same house. The farm had areas of poor drainage with some erosion problems near the open ditches when the younger Karst started farming. Before they started planting cover crops on all their acres, they planted wheat after harvest in areas that were prone to erosion. As land has been purchased, the father-son team have installed tile, and planted filter strips along the open ditches, and field borders around the woods. As a farm manager for Halderman Farm Management Services, Pat Karst manages several thousand acres in central Indiana. Through this capacity he has had several opportunities to utilize soil conservation practices on various farms. Pat has enrolled whole farms into CRP, installed filter strips along ditches, installed waterways and subsurface drainage, and planted trees. He has used this position to counsel clients, tenants and co-workers regarding soil conservation. From this point of view, he says, “we are merely stewards of the soil while we are here.”
- Carey McKibben, LaGrange County SWCD
McKibben went into farming after he graduated from Purdue in 1984. The home farm has been in the McKibben family since 1850. When he started farming, the equipment at that time was vintage 50's with the biggest tractor an IH Super MTA. That year McKibben had the corn custom no-tilled. As the farm has grown, he continues to no-till. Conservation tillage has helped him to expand with limited labor requirements. He currently plants approximately 2,100 acres. He plants all the corn with a JD 1770 no-till 16 row planter. His father plants most of the beans with JD 1990 35" air drill. McKibben says 90 percent of his soil is classified as loam, or sandy loam. With 95 percent of his glacial soils being A and B slopes, being below "T" has never been the issue. But as with any soil, sheet and rill erosion has been lessened with conservation tillage.
- Chuck Shelby, Tippecanoe County SWCD
Shelby is a fifth generation farmer in the Shelby family. He started farming on his own after graduating from Purdue University in 1975 with an Agriculture Economics degree. Shelby began no-tilling in 1981. At the time this was an odd choice and not generally accepted. He had to use many adaptations to planters to be able to make the attempt not only more effective, but possible. As Shelby acquires new farms he assesses each one individually. He believes the conditions and the land have to be at a certain level in order to make no-tilling profitable and possible. Each farm addresses drainage and soil type to be able to reach the "T" level and maximize soil health and productivity. Shelby says cover crops have been an important piece in his long-term conservation plan because they maintain soil tilth and reduce compaction. At the end of the day, conservation and improvements are so important to Shelby because he is working for his son's ability to farm. He believes without erosion control and conservation as key components to each farm's plan this would not be possible. A generation-to-generation farmer has to look at decisions with a 20-year impact not with a day-to-day impact, thus making the Shelby farm a complicated intertwining of conservation practices and productive land.
The Friend of Conservation Award is sponsored by the Brownfield Radio Network and the IASWCD. The award recognizes individuals, businesses or organizations that have made an outstanding contribution to soil and water conservation in Indiana. It was presented to the:
- Johnson County youth Conservation Board, Johnson County SWCD
The Johnson County Youth Conservation Board, in existence for over 26 years, is open to all High School Students in Johnson County. The Johnson County Youth Conservation Board assists the Johnson County SWCD with field days, annual meetings, storm drain labeling, Indiana Envirothon Competitions, and soils competitions are just a few of their projects and programs of recent years. The Board provides area students with a "hands-on" approach to conservation education and practices. Their "trademark" is simply The 5th Grade Pine Seedling Program. 2010 marked the 26th anniversary delivering a pine seedling to every 5th grade student in Johnson County in both public and private schools. This program affords the Board an opportunity to address conservation issues and educate their younger peers on the benefits of trees to our soil and water. It is estimated that over 50,000 trees have been distributed through the 5th Grade Pine Seedling Program and each student is encouraged to either plant the tree at home or share with a friend or relative that can plant it.
- Joe and Nancy Powell, Knox County SWCD
Not your typical landowners, Joe and Nancy Powell have taken a strong interest in improving their farmland. Their farmland encompasses 10 tracts of land with over 500 cropland acres. The Powell’s work very closely with their farm operators, Holscher Brothers Inc., and are engaged in all aspects of the crop production. This means they share in the risk of crop production and take on an active role in the production and management of their crop inputs. But their involvement with the risk of crop production doesn't end there. Their conservation ethic has grown and they support their farm operators in this effort financially as well. You will often find Joe working with contractors to repair tile lines and construct water and sediment control basins or developing warm season grass along his cropland/stream borders. The Powell’s involvement with both the USDA NRCS Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) and the Farm Service Agency’s Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) support their conservation ethic.
- Eugene (Gene) Myers, St. Joseph County SWCD
Myers is a retired St. Joseph County farmer. His parents originally owned 100 of the acres that comprise the present 140-acre farmstead. Myers became active in the operation in 1939 and then purchased the farm and additional acreage in 1949. The benefits of Myers' conservation program and his involvement with the local SWCD have had a far-reaching environmental impact on his community. He’s been a leader in showing how conservation tillage was not only practical for the environment but also aided in the financial bottom line for fellow producers. These practices done by Myers, as well as by local producers who followed his lead; have kept tons of sediment out of waterways, reducing not only pollution but also drainage fees for residents. Myers also was the first farmer to enroll land in St. Joseph County into the Farmland Conservation Easement program, showing others the importance of protecting the county's agricultural land. While his farm is not a large operation, the practices he has applied to the land, along with his leadership and dedication to conservation, have had a huge impact on his community. Myers was a founding member of the St. Joseph County SWCD and remains on the SWCD's Tree Sales Committee to this day. Over the past 24 years, this committee has played a key role in the planting of almost a million trees throughout the community.
- James F. Jackson, Sullivan County SWCD
Jackson is an educator, conservationist and philanthropist. At 91 he continues to give of himself to support the efforts of the Sullivan County SWCD to educate local youth to become better stewards of the natural resources they will inherit. Each year the SWCD takes all 300 Sullivan eighth grade students on a 10-mile educational raft trip on the Wabash River. This event includes an adult raft trip followed by three days of rafting with various groups of 8th grade students. Approximately 100 volunteers supervise the students in rafts and assist with the activities. For several years, Jackson accompanied students in the rafts. He shared with students his considerable knowledge about the environment and history of the river. He assisted in the rafts until age 89. Jackson still helps each year by transporting adult volunteers to the launch site and takes photos of all activities. He also sponsors the $1,500 in prize money given to the top three essay winners from each of the five local schools. The title of the essay is What I Learned Rafting the Wabash. When his family homestead was purchased by the coal mines, he took funds from the sale and assisted the Wabash Valley Community Foundation with matching funds to create the Sullivan Community Foundation and the James Jackson Scholarship Fund. The fund focuses on students in Greene and Sullivan Counties who pursue science and math studies.
- Gus Nyberg, Northern Indiana Citizens Helping Ecosystems Survive, Tippecanoe County SWCD
For the past three years, Nyberg has served as the director of the Northern Indiana Citizens Helping Ecosystems Survive (NICHES), a Tippecanoe County organization active in purchasing land. The goal is to restore the land to native prairie, savanna, wetlands and woodland habitats. These lands are primarily put into easements in order to maximize the longevity of protection. NICHES has acquired and stewards 2,469 acres of habitat to date. Although, there are many worthwhile projects the land trust has completed in a short amount of time, the connectivity of lands and restoration in the Wabash Corridor is one singled out in their nomination for this award. NICHES purchased and retired three parcels in the 100-year floodplain of the Wabash River in Tippecanoe County.
Indiana’s District Showcase Award highlights the successes of county Soil and Water Conservation Districts. Specifically, the honor showcases how SWCDs are partnering with traditional and nontraditional groups, businesses, government agencies, local officials and volunteers to achieve their conservation goals.
The award is sponsored by the Indiana Conservation Partnership (ICP).
Three SWCDS were honored as recipients at the 2011 Conservation
Awards banquet. They are the:
- Allen County SWCD: Partnering for the Future: A Watershed Mentality
- Delaware County SWCD: Improving water quality and conserving the natural resources of Delaware County
- Steuben County SWCD: Work to Improve Water Quality in the Pigeon Creek Watershed
The IASWCD's Supervisor of the Year Award honors Soil and Water Conservation District leaders (supervisors) for their outstanding and exemplary achievements and leadership in the protection and enhancement of Indiana’s soil and water resources. The award is sponsored by the Indiana Prairie Farmer Magazine.
Troy Hattery, Miami County SWCD, South-Northeast region nominee, was named the State 2010 Supervisor of the Year. He was one of seven region winners nominated.
Hattery has been on the Miami County SWCD board since 1994. An instrumental part of the District's growth, he is credited for helping the SWCD garner a $600,000 EPA 319 grant along with a $400,000 local match for the Middle Eel River Watershed. This watershed recently received a $2.9 million Mississippi River Basin Initiative grant from the USDA NRCS. He has been instrumental in spreading conservation ethics in Miami County and maintains a strong working relationship with the District's conservation partners.
Other regional Supervisor of the Year nominees honored tonight were:
- North-NE region winner, Jamie Scott, Kosciusko County SWCD;
- North-SW region winner, Matt Mace, Clay County SWCD;
- South-NW region winner, Jack Nelson, Hendricks County SWCD;
- South-SW region winner, Curt Coffman, Knox County SWCD;
- North-SE winner, Harold Rouston, Wayne County SWCD; and
- South-SE region winner, John Hardin, Scott County SWCD.
Leadership Institute Graduates Also Recognized:
Other leaders recognized at the banquet this evening included graduates of the Indiana Conservation Partnership’s Leadership Institute. The 25 individuals who completed the Cornerstones of Leadership training received a certificate and congratulatory letter from Lt. Governor Becky Skillman.
The Annual Conference of Indiana SWCDs concludes tomorrow with the IASWCD's annual Legislative Breakfast at 7:30 a.m. in the Marriott 5 Ballroom of the Indianapolis Downtown Marriott.
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INDIANA ASSOCIATION OF SOIL AND WATER CONSERVATION DISTRICTS
Our mission is to represent Soil and Water Conservation Districts as one voice, and to assist the leadership of local SWCDs through coordination and education for the wise use and management of our natural resources.