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Gotcher Receives the Annual Jerry L. Johnson Award

November 25, 2013

Gotcher Receives Jerry Johnson Award

(l-r) AL NRCS State Conservationist Dr. William Puckett, Assistant State Conservationist for North Team Greg Dansby, and (r) NRCS Associate Chief for Conservation Leonard Jordan presented Kathy Gotcher with the Alabama NRCS 2013 Jerry L. Johnson Award.

Kathy Gotcher, District Conservationist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Moulton, Alabama, was presented the Jerry L. Johnson Award during the Alabama Association of Conservation Districts (AACD) Annual Meeting in Orange Beach, Alabama, on November 17, 2013.

Those nominating Kathy said that she “demonstrates the highest level of integrity, sincerity, and commitment to excellence which this distinguished award represents.”

State Conservationist Dr. William Puckett said the award was established to honor the late state forester Jerry Johnson. It is given annually to an Alabama NRCS employee who exhibits excellence in public service through family, employment, profession, and community. “Kathy is a dedicated employee whose personal values add to her strong work ethic,” Puckett said.  “She is well-respected in the community and performs her duties with thehighest degree of professionalism.” 

Kathy graduated from Mississippi State University with a BS degree in Agriculture Communications in 1984.  She has been married to her husband, Henry, for 28 years and they have three children,Will, Ben, and Marc.

Growing up on a row crop and cattle farm helped instill in Kathy a love of the land. Her family grew cotton, corn, soybeans, and wheat, and raised cattle. After marrying Henry, they began a cattle operation and also row cropped until 1990. The Gotchers still raise cattle and grow, cut, and bale their own hay.

The Gotchers enjoy spending time in the outdoors. They often spend their weekends in a cabin they built on 200 acres, fishing in two large ponds and hunting. The cabin is run completely on solar power and they capture and use the run-off water from the roof.

Kathy started working for NRCS in 1987 when it was named the Soil Conservation Service. She progressed through the ranks from Soil Conservation Technician in Colbert County (1987-1989), Soil Conservationist in Lauderdale County (1989-1991), Resource Conservationist for the North Team in Decatur Alabama (1991-1994), District Conservationist in Colbert County (1994-2007).  She currently works in Lawrence County.

“I like working for NRCS because I am able to get out in the county and meet some really good people who have the same goal as I do – to protect our natural resources, now and for future generations,” she said. “I am also able to help educate youth to respect and preserve our natural resources through local environmental education programs.”

In addition to her regular duties for Alabama NRCS, Kathy was an officer for the Civil Rights Advisory Committee (CRAC), and was recognized for her assistance in helping develop the State Efficiency Plan in 2009. She received Certificates of Merit for assistance to the farmers of Lawrence County impacted by the April 2011 tornados in December 2011 and For Outstanding Performance for FY2008. 

A great communicator, Kathy is a leader in executing conservation projects and organizing educational events. Even though she works in a high volume agricultural county, she goes beyond what is expected to help local, state, and agency partners to reach out to the underserved, the youth, area producers, and others that need conservation assistance and training.

Kathy is a familiar face in her community. She works with Colbert and Lawrence County’s local partners helping with Water Festivals, Progressive Farmer Safety Day, FFA AG Day and Land Judging, High School Rodeo, and the Farm City Banquet. She also helps educate kids about conservation through the Enviroscape, Ruby Raindrop, and the Envirothon programs. She helped develop an agriculture-based diploma with the Lawrence County Board of Education. Kathy assists the community with the annual Oka Kapassa Native American Festival. She helped seek funding through the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) to install a GPS system in her community so farmers can get reliable signals for their precision guidance farming equipment. Kathy is a long time member of the Colbert County and Alabama Cattleman’s Association, a member of the parent council for the Muscle Shoals Trojan Fishing Club, and an Assistance Regional Director for the Alabama Student Angler Bass Fishing Association. She is also a member of the Leighton Chapter Order of Eastern Star.

The Gotcher family has been involved with the local 4-H organization for years. She and Henry were inducted in the State of Alabama 4-H Wall of Fame in March 2013, this honor is for those who have made a significant impact on the 4-H and Youth Development program, its members and leaders. Her three boys have also made their mark in the organization. All three have served on the Regional 4-H Advisory Council and have held various officer positions in the local 4-H County Council. Kathy said, “Henry and I believe that if you keep your children involved in programs such as 4-H, it will give them the knowledge and guidance to develop their leadership skills. Then they will become successful at whatever they are doing.”

In November 2012, Kathy and her family were honored by their local farming community when they received the 2012 Colbert County Extension “Farm Family of the Year Award.”

Kathy is very active in the Shady Grove United Methodist Church and helps wherever she is needed. Among many things, she is the Chairperson of Church Council, is on the Board of Trustees, and serves on the Youth, New Building, and Food Pantry committees.

In the aftermath of the April2011 tornados that devastated north Alabama, Kathy jumped in and put her organizational skills to good use. She worked with the Lawrence County Emergency Management Agency to develop a Hazard Mitigation Plan, helped distribute food and water to families, and informed impacted farmers about how NRCS could assist them with disaster assistance though the Emergency Watershed Program (EWP) and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).  In addition, she coordinated recovery resources with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). 

 

Area poultry producers had chicken houses that were totally destroyed by the storm. They needed immediate direction on what to do with mortality disposal and how to start to rebuild. Communication was poor due to the outage of electricity and phone services, but Kathy made a personal effort to be sure interested parties knew about an information meeting that was held at the USDA Service Center in Moulton. 

Kathy was nominated for the Jerry L. Johnson Award by Charlie Meek, NRCS RC&D (retired); Etta Mask, Colbert Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD); and Henrietta Taylor, Lawrence SWCD. They said, “We believe Kathy’s sincere concern for others is her trademark.  Kathy is a dedicated wife, mother, community leader, employee, and Christian. We count it a special blessing to be a recipient of Kathy’s generosity and friendship.”

The Jerry L. Johnson Award was established in 2005. The selection committee is comprised of representatives from Alabama State Soil and Water Conservation Committee, AACD, and the Alabama NRCS.