Distinguished Texas public affairs specialist Quenna Terry retires
Quenna Terry, Zone 1 Public Affairs Specialist, recently retired after 32 years with the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Story and photos by: Dee Ann Littlefield, Public Affairs Specialist, Henrietta, Texas
Quenna Terry, Zone 1 Public Affairs Specialist, recently retired after 32 years with the agency.
Quenna attended Texas Tech University (TTU) where she obtained a degree from the College of Agriculture, Sciences and Natural Resources (CASNR) with a major in Agricultural Communications and minored in journalism technical writing. Quenna came from a ranching background in Salida, Colorado and Seymour, Texas. During summers while she was in college at Tech, Quenna interned with the Baylor County Soil and Water Conservation District. It was there she learned more about the innerworkings of the relationship between the local SWCDs and the NRCS and how they helped producers apply key conservation practices on their operations. During her junior and senior years at Tech she was offered an opportunity to work for the Lubbock Soil and Water Conservation District and complete data entry for the national resource inventory (NRI) working through NRCS’ zone soil scientist.
Upon graduation from Tech, Quenna continued to work for the Soil Conservation Service (SCS), now NRCS, in a non-permanent capacity through a part-time work program called WAE where she continued her efforts with NRI and learning conservation planning and technical support.
In 1993, she was converted as a full-time Conservation Planner in the Lubbock field office. She held this position for nine years before Mickey Black, then Assistant State Conservationist for Field Operations in Zone 1, recognized her talents and ability to effectively communicate agency information and programs and hired her as the Zone 1 Public Affairs Specialist based in the Lubbock field office. Quenna held the first zone public affairs position in the state and with her success in this area, this model would be later adopted for all five zones in the state.
Quenna spent her career serving the field offices with communication support in the form of developing handouts and educational materials, organizing and promoting field days and workshops, attending recruiting events and much more. Through events and extensive networking efforts, Quenna developed important relationships with the soil and water conservation districts, underground water conservation districts, AgriLife Extension and commodity organizations in the Lubbock and Texas Pandhandle areas, including Texas Corn Producers, Plains Cotton Growers, Texas Wheat Growers, Texas Peanut Growers, Texas Grain Sorghum, Texas Cattle Feeders and others. She made concentrated efforts to hire student interns from the TTU CASNR College of Communications as interns for NRCS in the Public Affairs role throughout her years with the agency. Many of them went on to serve in careers in the agriculture industry and their early experiences with the NRCS through Quenna helped increase NRCS’ understanding and assistance with those respective audiences.
Quenna developed a successful working relationship with high profile media in the Texas Panhandle and South Plains region. She served as a member of the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce Ag committee, the Agricultural Communicators in the High Plains and as a TTU CASNR advisory board member for a several years. In 2009, Quenna received the TTU CASNR Distinguished Alumni award “in recognition for her professional achievement and contribution to society.”
One of the favorite parts of Quenna’s job was to do feature stories on agriculture producers utilizing NRCS assistance to further their operation’s management and conservation goals. Over the course of her career, she had many of her stories featured at the national and international level. Through a unique education grant she worked on through a partnership with The Texas Corn Producers (TCP), Quenna represented NRCS working through TCP to plan and execute several “Field to Fork” events across the state. These events where hosted by farmers who utilized NRCS assistance with key social media influencers and bloggers invited to attend the event to learn about agriculture food production at the grass roots level and the conservation efforts involved that improve the environment and boost the economy. The blogs, articles, videos and media interviews produced from these events reached broad audiences of thousands of people, taking the good news of NRCS and conservation to new and non-traditional audiences.
Taking a further step to reach an even larger consumer audience, the TCP and NRCS duo conducted satellite media tours. One example was the Texas Corn Producers Female Farmers Cropping Up media tour that took place on a West Texas farm near Muleshoe. The farmers spoke with stations across the country to share their different experiences on how farming became part of their lives and the impact it has had on the way they view food. The women farmers also discussed how the farming lifestyle has developed over the years and the new technologies being utilized to maximize production while conserving resources and protecting the environment. The media tour reached more than 116.8 million people with 493 airings of the content with an Ad Value of more than $2 million.
With her network of partners and geographic location in the Panhandle and South Plains regions, Quenna served as an agency liaison to the national office for NRCS initiatives including the Lesser Prairie Chicken, Ogallala Aquifer, Playa Lakes and Urban Agriculture efforts. Quenna also organized and hosted many events and tours for key USDA VIPs, including several Secretaries of Agriculture and Deputy Under Secretaries.
Also, through the partnership agreement with TCP, Quenna was one of the key founders of the www.WaterGrows.org website. She was instrumental in developing the initial marketing campaign, “Water Grows – Lets Make it Last,” that focused on the benefits the Ogallala Aquifer provides Texas in growing food, jobs, the economy and our future with an emphasis on NRCS providing producers with water conservation practices, including the most advanced technologies used for water use efficiencies and cost-sharing. Quenna worked with TCP and NRCS staff to develop social media posts, blogs, public service announcements, videos and events to educate the public on the water conservation efforts implemented by farmers and ranchers over the Ogallala Aquifer and the many public benefits that result.
One of the capstones of her career was the 2023 launch of an online training platform that has resulted in online curriculum and certification centered around NRCS approaches to natural resource conservation. Fundamentals of Conservation & Sustainability in Agriculture Certification is the first of its kind online training focused on soil, water, air, plants and animals. It is offered through iCEV, a comprehensive online resource for Career and Technical Education programs that offers certifications with CTE curriculum aligned to industry standards. Quenna gathered and guided a group of NRCS soil, water and range scientists and public affairs specialists to develop the curriculum, provide video interviews, and provide their technical expertise in the entire project – from writing the course narration to video production and photo selection oversight.
From her concept initialization in 2014 to her leadership in the development of this complex project - this new product will take historic and educational information that meets the agency mission and goals to audiences the agency has never had access to, as well as FFA students and 4-H members. In addition to being an educational tool for career professionals and decision makers in the areas of city and company management of natural resources, this product will serve as an exceptional recruiting tool to a very important target audience: high school, college students and other adult learners. In addition, this certification course has the potential to be an excellent training option for new NRCS employees.
Throughout her career, Quenna utilized her talents and role as a public affairs specialist to help unprecedented audiences learn about the agency, to recruit and mentor new employees and to position the agency for growth in the future. She helped guide and shape an effective public affairs and communications program for NRCS Texas. We are glad she chose to serve the agency as she did and wish her well in her future endeavors.