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News Release

NRCS Earth Team Volunteers Win National Awards

Little Rock, Ark., Feb. 28, 2012 – The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Arkansas won the 2013 National Chief’s Cup award for the best overall Earth Team volunteer program in the nation.  Arkansas’s volunteer contributions were valued at more than $361,665 in salary savings for the agency last year.   All NRCS county offices participated in volunteer programs with 817 Earth Team volunteers working a total of 16,597 hours.

The Earth Team is a program which partners volunteers with NRCS employees to help conserve, maintain and improve our natural resources and environment,” said acting State Conservationist Doris Washington.  “Arkansas volunteers won three national volunteer awards and we are proud of the work all our volunteers provide to help put conservation on the ground.”


Amanda Carrell, a volunteer at the Jonesboro field office, won the 2013 National and State Earth Team Volunteer of the Year awards.  Carrell assisted NRCS specialists with wetland delineations and restoration projects by completing field work and inventorying resources.  She helped the NRCS staff complete more than 200 Mississippi River Basin Initiative (MRBI) applications for the 2012 Little River Ditches Watershed project.  Carrell also helped survey a 300-acre irrigation reservoir and assisted with the preliminary survey and layout of the reservoir and a tailwater recovery ditch. 

The Randolph County Conservation District’s CoCoRaHS Rain Gauge Network won the 2013 National and State Earth Team Group Volunteer of the Year awards.  Thirteen group volunteers worked a total of 812 hours to measure and input daily rain fall data into a CoCoRaHS on-line network.  Site specific rainfall measurement was especially important last year due to Arkansas’s worst drought in decades, according to group leader Brittney Yancy.  NRCS uses the data for practice failures and modification support for conservation programs, to help NRCS staff and customers make better site-specific determinations on vegetative plantings, and to help with a host of other technical decisions on services NRCS offers landowners. 

Adam Eades, NRCS District Conservationist at the Pocahontas field office, won the 2013 National and State Earth Team Employee of the Year awards.  The NRCS office in Pocahontas also won Arkansas’s 2013 Earth Team Field Service Center of the Year award.  The Pocahontas office reported 18 volunteers who worked 937 hours last year.  Volunteers measured and charted local rain fall, helped conduct a grazing workshop, FFA soil judging and training, chainsaw safety workshop, conservation information day and tree plantings. 


Mary Clayton, Northeast Area Volunteer Coordinator won the Earth Team Volunteer Coordinator of the Year for Arkansas.  Through Clayton’s leadership, all NRCS offices in northeast Arkansas participated in the volunteer program.  She conducted Earth Team outreach programs and spoke at the Greene County Master Gardeners and Craighead County Cattlemen’s Association meetings. 

The Randolph County Conservation District (RCCD) won the 2013 Earth Team NRCS/Arkansas Association of Conservation District’s (AACD) Partnership Award for Arkansas.  The AACD provided rain gauges to each county in Arkansas to measure rainfall.  The RCCD placed 12 rain gauges in strategic locations for maximum coverage throughout the county.  Volunteers worked 812 hours to measure and chart rainfall data last year. 


Juan Padilla won the Area Volunteer of the Year for Northwest Arkansas.  Padilla volunteered 375 hours at the Fort Smith field office last year scheduling referrals for staff, interpreting for Hispanic producers and helping staff respond to inquiries and process applications during the 2012 Drought Initiative.  He also worked with large urban schools in Sebastian County to conduct conservation education lessons in classrooms.  

John Wheeler won the Area Volunteer of the Year for Northeast Arkansas.  John is a retired NRCS employee with superb conservation skills and knowledge of conservation programs.  John volunteered 340 hours at the Marion field office last year as a soil conservationist, conservation plan writer and helped to rank and prepare cost estimates on more than 200 Mississippi River Basin Initiative applications in Crittenden County last year. 

Sherry Pfaffenberger won the Area Volunteer of the Year for South Arkansas.  Pfaffenberger volunteers in the NRCS office in DeWitt.  She was a leader in teaching 175 first grade students about the benefit of trees and why we need them.  Pfaffenberger helped sack conservation �goodie bags’ and packaged trees seedlings for the students.  

Mildred Johnson won the NRCS State Office Volunteer of the Year award.  Johnson volunteered 725 hours while serving as an administrative assistant to the Human Resources staff.

Earth Team volunteers must be at least 14 years of age.  People interested in volunteering in Arkansas should contact Pat Hoeffken at (501) 301-3167 or email her at  To volunteer outside Arkansas, email or visit the National Earth Team website at