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70 years of conservation

Seventy years ago the world was recovering from WWII. The Polaroid camera was first demonstrated, a UFO allegedly crashed in Roswell, New Mexico, and the sound barrier was broken by Chuck Yeager.
 
Here in Holmes County a group of concerned landowners and ag leaders banded together to organize the Holmes Soil & Water Conservation District on July 25, 1947. Now all 88 counties in Ohio have an SWCD, and there are almost 3,000 districts across the U.S.
 
Formed in response to the Dust Bowls of the 1930s as a local complement to the federal Soil Conservation Service, SWCDs are arguably one of the most unique government agencies out there.
 
Our funding starts with the support of our local county commissioners. The county appropriations are “matched” by the Ohio General Assembly through the Ohio Department of Agriculture at about 75 percent to form our operating budget. The “match” ensures districts are working on local and statewide natural resource concerns.
 
We are governed by a publicly elected board of five supervisors and landowners who serve on a voluntary basis to prioritize our programs and provide financial oversight.
 
Many people ask me, “So what does SWCD do?” Our priorities are promoting conservation practices that improve water quality and increase soil health. We work with landowners to plan and design these practices or provide information to them.
 
We are the boots on the ground, stomping through the weeds and other, um, stuff to survey and lay out practices like manure storage, waterways, underground outlets, cattle travel lanes, heavy use pads, milk house waste storage and stream bank fencing.
 
Because water always runs downhill (that hasn’t changed in 70 years), we want to keep it from washing livestock manure and soil into the nearest ditch or stream. We work with our USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service partners to design and plan practices to their rigorous standards and specifications.
 
Planning is another big part of what we do to provide good information to farmers to manage nutrients (manure and fertilizer) so it doesn’t run off into the stream (you see a theme here). Our office is a pass through to a soil testing lab, and we can explain the results so landowners understand what nutrients are needed or not needed.
 
And healthy soil, the unsung hero of natural resources, is needed to produce food, provide suitable foundation for infrastructure, filter water and basically sustain life. Franklin Delano Roosevelt pretty well summed it up when he said, “The nation that destroys its soil, destroys itself.” If you don’t believe him, do a quick Google search about soil erosion in Haiti as a modern-day example.
 
We also provide in-classroom presentations and just wrapped up our 50th Tom Graham Fifth Grade Conservation Farm Tour, where all the fifth-graders in the county learned more about conservation and farming at Spring Walk Farm near Nashville.
 
In addition our staff organizes an extensive aerial cover crop seeding program, investigates livestock pollution, reviews Timber Harvest Plans, assists with milkweed pod collection for monarchs, offers a tree seedling sale and hosts an Ag Appreciation Breakfast among several other programs.
 
And while the world has changed dramatically in the past 70 years, there are a few constants such as the importance of soil and water conservation.
 
If you are interested in learning more about your local SWCD, join us Tuesday, Nov. 14 for our 70th annual meeting at the Carlisle Inn in Walnut Creek. Our supervisor election polls open at 6 p.m. with dinner served at 7 p.m. The Carlisle Inn always serves an excellent family-style meal with barbecue ribs and assorted desserts, and the cost is only $12 for adults and $4 for kids age 3-11.
 
After dinner we have a short meeting honoring our fifth-grade tour essay contest and poster contest winners, a Conservation Farm Award, Friend of Conservation Award as well as a year in review video. Tickets can be purchased until Nov. 3 by calling our office at 330-674-SWCD ext. 3. Find out more at www.holmesswcd.com or see us on Facebook.
 
Michelle Wood is the administrator for the Holmes SWCD.
 

Published: October 10, 2017
New Article ID: 2017171009944