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USDA Provides Information to Native Americans in Northeast Oklahoma

USDA Provides Information to Native Americans in Northeast Oklahoma

NRCS booth displays various informatino about programs

Matt Ward, NRCS program liaison from Claremore, visits with school board member and meeting organizer, Ross Wolf, about various USDA programs offered through NRCS.

Attendees visit NRCS booth

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.

Attendees listen to presenters

Over 75 people of all ages and backgrounds came to the Cave Springs Elementary School for a USDA program outreach meeting.

Students sign in at 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 Americans.

“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 Native Americans.

“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 interests.”

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.

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.”

By Dee Ann Littlefield, public affairs specialist, Waurika, OK
NRCS February 2008

Last Modified: 03/05/2008

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