DeKalb County Team Named 2011 Field Office Of The Year
Paige Buck, State Public Affairs Specialist
Champaign, IL—The DeKalb County USDA Team was recently selected as Illinois’ 2011 Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Team of the Year. Winning members receive no fanfare, no trip to the Bahamas, or even a cash award. They do, however, receive recognition and praise from colleagues, co-workers, and partners locally and around the state and a big thank you for hard work. During 2011, the Sycamore, Illinois team included District Conservationist Michael Richolson; Soil Conservationists Paul Searl and Grant Johnsen; Resource Conservationist Dean Johnson; and Administrative Coordinator Sandra Warner. Also housed at their office and key to the team last year were Agricultural Engineers Lori Younker and Carmari Gomez Davilia.
“There are Service Center teams like ours across the state. They work hard to get the job done just like we do but it’s sure great to be picked out of all 97 of them and be told you’ve been noticed and that we’re ‘the best’,” says Richolson. Richolson says his team has a clear advantage of having great team members and partners who make success a little easier to achieve and a whole lot more fun.
Theirs is a tight-knit team made of up individuals who each handle a variety of office tasks, field assignments, technical work, computer and data entry—but all of which come together to accomplish one (not so simple) goal: the protection of DeKalb County’s soil and water resources.
Most notable is that of DeKalb County’s 332,000 acres of cropland, 28% is currently managed with true conservation standards under NRCS’ popular program, the “Conservation Stewardship Program,” or CSP. “That’s nearly one-third of the county under the watchful and careful management of landowners and operators who are passionate about sustainable agriculture,” Richolson explains.
According to Illinois NRCS’ Acting State Conservationist Jeff Zimprich, the team’s customers range from small local farmers to county government representatives and large corporate ag operations. Projects consist of adding grass waterways in a field or the survey and design for a complicated suite of practices on a huge livestock operation. “Either way, the Sycamore Team delivers top quality conservation assistance and they give extra attention to protection of resources on and off the farm,” Zimprich adds.
Conservation On The Ground -- DeKalb County
Conservation plans written: 14,810 acres
Cropland soil quality protection: 8,444 acres
Comprehensive Nutrient Mgt. Plans applied: 2
Grazing lands protected: 214 acres
Non-federal land w/ conservation for fish/wildlife: 392 acres
WRP Wetlands created/enhanced/restored: 37 acres
Forestland protected: 20 acres
Conservation Security/Stewardship Program: 147 contracts on 92,346 acres
EQIP13 contracts on 28,232 acres
Conservation Practices Program grassed waterways: 15 acres
CRP Filter strips: 13 contracts on 63.6 acres
CRP Field borders: 44.5 acres
CRP Rare & declining habitat: 32 acres
CRP Wetlands & upland buffers: 9 contracts on 167 acres
CRP grassed waterways: 32 contracts on 72.8 acres
“We’re part of an even bigger conservation team. The SWCD, Farm Bureau, and U of I Extension are all terrific partners for farm shows, meetings, and all the educational programs we pull together,” says Richolson. These partners work together at the Northern Illinois Farm Show, which brings in 7,500 attendees each year.
The DeKalb team values production agriculture and the importance of maintaining a healthy environment for the future. Because the county isn’t all ag, they work diligently to address storm water management activities as well. Why? Because it’s still about soil and water, even in urban settings. Both NRCS and the SWCD serve as technical advisors to the County’s Stormwater Management Committee and Community Foundation. Together, they work to create county-wide ordinances that will effectively address both rural and urban issues.
The team also works with the Forest Preserve District on a 55-acre wetland restoration project that includes an original homestead built in 1835. Through a Cooperative Agreement with Illinois EPA, the SWCD performs soil erosion and construction site inspections—managing erosion and soil losses on the development side of life in DeKalb County.
“You can look at the numbers, the projects we’ve taken on, or just look at the land up here and you’ll see the results of a good conservation team that’s hard at work. We are honored to get this recognition, and I think I speak for everyone when I say we really just love what we do for a living,” Richolson adds with a smile.
To learn more about what NRCS does in all Illinois counties, visit www.il.nrcs.usda.gov.
Photo caption: DeKalb County’s USDA NRCS-SWCD Field Office in Sycamore, Illinois awarded “Best Field Office of the Year Award” for 2011. Pictured (l to r) are: Paul Searl, Mike Richolson, Carmari Gomez, Sandy Warner, Grant Johnsen, Lori Younker, and Dean Johnson.
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