Matt Ward, NRCS program liaison from Claremore, visits with school board
member and meeting organizer, Ross Wolf, about various USDA programs
offered through NRCS.
A member of the Cherokee tribe and his teenage son
look over the program and career information material that was available
at the NRCS booth set up at the meeting.
Over 75 people of all ages and backgrounds came to the
Cave Springs Elementary School for a USDA program outreach meeting.
Students from Cave Springs High School came to the
outreach meeting to obtain information on internships, scholarships and
career opportunities available through USDA.
Over 75 people attended a USDA Outreach, Career and
Information Fair at Cave Springs Elementary School, 10 miles southwest
of Stillwell, Oklahoma, on Monday, January 28, 2008.
Representatives from USDA’s Natural Resources
Conservation Service (NRCS), Rural Development (RD), Farm Service Agency
(FSA) and National Agricultural Statistics Service were on hand to
present information about USDA career opportunities and services for the
community of Cave Springs, where the majority of the citizens are Native
“We applaud the community’s efforts to convene and
seek out the information and opportunities provided by USDA agencies,”
Ron Hilliard, NRCS Oklahoma state conservationist, said of the meeting.
The meeting was organized by Cave Springs
Elementary school board members Lyle Coiner and Ross Wolf, with the
assistance of Phil Givens, a private consultant.
Coiner explained that through Givens’
encouragement, he and Wolf accompanied Givens on a trip to Washington
D.C. in December to find out more about what the USDA has to offer
“The trip really opened our eyes to the great
programs the USDA has available for a community like ours,” Coiner said.
“Something like 92 percent of the people in our area are Native
Americans, so we want to help them understand that some programs have
special funds set aside just for minority groups with agriculture
Coiner, Wolf and Givens organized and advertised
the community meeting, which they opened to all Native Americans, tribal
officials, college and university representatives, school counselors,
and school districts. In addition to information packages and material
provided by each agency, attendees also received a free hot dog dinner.
“It just makes good sense to bring the agencies in
to help the local people understand the grant programs, loan programs,
conservation programs and general information that are available to
them,” Coiner explained.
Jasper Parker, assistant state conservationist for
outreach for NRCS Oklahoma, explained the NRCS mission of “helping
people help the land.”
“NRCS has trained professionals in every county
that will help you assess the resources on your property and develop a
conservation plan on your land,” Parker told the audience. “We also
provide cost-share assistance programs to help you meet some of your
goals outlined in your plan.”
Parker explained that grant information and
opportunities are also available through NRCS’ Resource Conservation and
Development (RC&D) directors. Parker also talked about internship and
career opportunities for those that might be interested in a career with
NRCS provided handouts that included Farm Bill
information, career opportunities with NRCS, as well as web addresses,
phone numbers and locations for NRCS and RC&D offices in Oklahoma.
John Ross, program analyst for the Cherokee Nation,
attended the meeting with the hopes of taking some key information about
USDA programs back to the Cherokee Nation and distributing it through
various communication outlets.
“We have already participated in some grant
programs that we have found very successful,” Ross said. “Right now we
are interested in cleaning up an area of a stream on some property in
Muskogee County that will help improve the water quality and stop the
erosion that is going on.”
Ross has immediate plans to contact the NRCS office
in Muskogee County to obtain technical assistance in the project.
Givens, Coiner and Wolfe were pleased with the turn
out for the meeting, as well as the information presented.
“Now we just hope that people will find a program
that fits their needs and pursue it,” Coiner said. “That’s the way the
USDA can really start benefiting this whole community.”