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Kurt Mason, Lead District Conservationist

 

Kurt Mason braving a cold February day to teach landowners about soil health. “Kurt Mason deserves a medal. His knowledge is first-rate and his service is stellar.” Jeremy Levine, Jefferson County landowner

Kurt Mason has had a 38 year career with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and most of those years have been in Louisville, Kentucky, the place he now calls home.  Kurt grew up on a family farm in Scott County, Kentucky.  Raising beef cattle, hogs, tobacco and hay helped him develop a love for agriculture so he went to Morehead State University (MSU) to study Agriculture Education (with an emphasis in agronomy). 

Kurt had the opportunity to work as a student trainee in the Soil Conservation Service (now NRCS) in the Georgetown field office (back home) beginning his sophomore year.   It was there he met the district conservationist at that time, John Jones.  Kurt recalls, “John was the first person from any agricultural agency that ever stopped by our farm to visit, plus he made the inside cover of the Ebony Magazine as the first African American district conservationist with USDA in Kentucky.” That was enough to make a lasting impression on Kurt and his family.  The Mason family “adopted” John and his wife and a lasting friendship was formed. 

After graduating from MSU, Kurt was selected as the district conservationist in the Louisville field office. Now, 38 years later, he looks back on his career with NRCS and gives credit to the daily challenges that keep him coming back every day.  He said, “Unlike many of our traditional NRCS field office settings, the diversity of challenges that come with providing assistance in an urban setting is fun as well as self- satisfying.  Interacting with task forces, urban planners, community leaders, homeowner associations, educators and a myriad of local government agencies and ethnic groups to make a difference has its own level of reward.”

Louisville provides the urban challenges, but Kurt also covers Oldham and Bullitt Counties where he enjoys the agricultural side of his work.  He added, “The one constant over my years with SCS/NRCS is that providing technical assistance and advice to people has never changed, it has just become a small piece of the pie in most cases.” Kurt has been dedicated to helping people and communities find ways to address soil and water related problems in ways that are practical, effective and at a reasonable cost.

Like many folks who have enjoyed a long career, Kurt’s advice to anyone just starting out is to, “Find something you enjoy doing and you will never ‘work’ a day in your life, but always have a backup plan.” After moving to Louisville, Kurt attended the University of Louisville (UL) and obtained a Masters Degree in PubIic Administration and shortly afterwards a Masters in Community Development and Design.  “I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with these but thought they would be helpful in meshing my love for soils, plant science, urban planning and community involvement.”

Kurt’s advice is also to stay the course.  He was a Scott County native and often thought of returning to those roots, but he said, “By the time seven years rolled around, I was an entrenched stakeholder in a community that offered everything I needed and wanted, including a backup plan.  I still have roots in Scott County and it is a place I can always go back to but there’s no place like home.”

Kurt has been married to Theresa for 34 years and they have one son, Kameron, who is a junior at Transylvania University in Lexington.  Like many parents, their son kept them busy with sports activities, but before that time, Kurt played competitive racquetball for about 15 years.  He was sponsored by Wilson Racquet Sports.  He said, "When I left the sport, I racked up a bunch of tournament wins and left behind two rotator cuffs and one Achilles tendon." 

 

Pictured:  Kurt with a group of Beargrass Creek Alliance volunteers installing the first rain garden at Beargrass Creek Pump Station in 2004.

Kurt Mason with a group of Beargrass Creek Alliance volunteers installing the first rain garden at Beargrass Creek Pump Station in 2004.

“I first met Kurt in 1990 at the Louisville Nature Center. If I kept track of all the phone calls I’ve made to Kurt over the years to request his help and support, those phone calls would be as thick as the Manhattan and Los Angeles phone books combined.”  Phyllis Croce, Landscape Restoration Specialist, Metropolitan Sewer District

 

Kurt with his son Kameron, volunteering at one of the many Beargrass Creek Clean Sweeps they attended.

Pictured:  Kurt with his son Kameron, volunteering for one of the many annual Beargrass Creek Clean Sweep events they attended.

 

 

“I have had the opportunity to work with Kurt on programs such as EQIP, state cost-share, watershed (08) and EWP; in all instances, I have found all work performed in a very professional and exceptional manner. The ease and skillful manner in which Kurt interacts with units of government (local, state and federal) and the farming community; is to be applauded and we can gain greatly by emulating his methods. Kurt’s approach to his workload has made my work in his counties most pleasurable. When I approach Kurt to help with Engineering Training and related matters, he is happy and eager to lend a helping hand.”  William Thomas, Jr., Area Engineer with NRCS.

 

 

“With Kurt’s help, we have been able to accomplish so much with public parks and individual woodland owners in Jefferson, Bullitt, and Oldham Counties.  He stays busy, highly productive, and always ready to educate us with a smile.  We have all benefited from Kurt’s kindness, his patience, and his bright expertise.“ Lisa Armstrong, Senior Forester, Ky. Division of Forestry

Kurt Mason delivering a soils presentation at the Food, Farming & Our Environment workshop for a group of teachers from Jefferson, Oldham, Bullitt, Shelby and Spencer Counties.

 

 Pictured:  Kurt delivering a soils presentation at the Food, Farming & Our Environment workshop for a group of teachers from Jefferson, Oldham, Bullitt, Shelby and Spencer Counties.