NRCS, SWCD offices to celebrate anniversariesWORTHINGTON — The Natural Resources Conservation Service, along with the Nobles County Soil and Water Conservation District, will celebrate its 75th and 55th anniversaries, respectively, with an open house from 1 to 3 p.m. Friday at the Ag Service Center, 1567 McMillan St., Worthington.
By: Julie Buntjer, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — The Natural Resources Conservation Service, along with the Nobles County Soil and Water Conservation District, will celebrate its 75th and 55th anniversaries, respectively, with an open house from 1 to 3 p.m. Friday at the Ag Service Center, 1567 McMillan St., Worthington.
The event celebrates the efforts of local landowners and crop producers in conservation efforts. It was 75 years ago this month — during the dust bowl of the 1930s — that President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Soil Conservation Act, which established a Soil Conservation Service within the USDA. The legislation paved the way for local soil and water conservation districts to be organized.
In 1955, NRCS staff was hired locally to work alongside individuals in the Soil Conservation Service. Today, the NRCS and SWCD share an office at the Ag Service Center, and work with rural landowners on conservation practices ranging from filter strips to buffers, wetland restorations, terraces, waterways, farmstead windbreaks and wildlife enhancement projects.
NRCS staff in Worthington includes Stephanie McLain, district conservationist; Dawn Madison, soil conservation technician and Brad Harberts, civil engineer technician. SWCD staff members are Ed Lenz, district manager; Jane Steffl, financial officer; Aaron Crowley, district technician; Mary Kretz, education coordinator; and Ross Behrends, who assists in a partnership through the Heron Lake Watershed District.
Combined, the agencies have assisted landowners in converting more than 320 acres of marginal land into filter strips through the Conservation Reserve Program — that’s just within the Okabena-Ocheda Watershed District. The Heron Lake and Kanaranzi-Little Rock watershed districts also include portions of Nobles County.
“We have a lot of families that their grandpas and dads have done conservation practices and now their sons have continued on,” said Madison. “We really do have a lot of people in this county that are being great stewards and leaving the ground for the next generation."
McLain estimates that there are conservation practices in place in every section of Nobles County.
“Nobles County farmers are very good about wanting to improve what they have out there,” added Lenz. “They realize the value of what they have on the ground.”
Recent additions, such as wildlife habitat and high tunnel programs, are making it possible for the NRCS and SWCD to work with smaller landowners — those who have maybe just five or 10 acres — as well as vegetable growers, a group they haven’t worked with in the past.
“We do quite a bit of work with livestock operations to try to reduce runoff potential,” added Lenz. “We work really well with (Nobles County) Environmental Services. We’re kind of a go-between to fix sites and build sites that are safer and better for the environment.”
The SWCD is served by five elected board members. Those currently serving on the board are Jim Knips, Lynn Darling, Paul Langseth, Rick Nelsen and Ken Wolf.
Current and former board members will be invited to attend Friday’s event, which is open to the public. Coffee and cookies will be served.