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A Century of Conservation

Posted by Paige Buck, Illinois Public Affairs Officer on May 31, 2016 at 10:02 AM
Harold Kraut holds an award presented to him in 1954 by Illinois Governor William Stratton, for his outstanding achievements in soil conservation.

Harold Kraut holds an award presented to him in 1954 by Illinois Governor William Stratton, for his outstanding achievements in soil conservation.

After Harold “Boge” Kraut returned home from World War II in 1945, he purchased his 144-acre farm for $125 down and a firm handshake as a promise to repay the balance. With that, he became a farmer.

Harold said he’d always had a knack for conservation. Maybe that came from growing up during The Dust Bowl, or perhaps from working on his parents’ orchard.

“As a little bitty boy, I played in the dirt with those animals up on the hill for years,” Harold recalls, talking about a little set of celluloid (plastic) farm animals he got for Christmas. “But I took care of those animals.”

In fact, Harold still has those farm animals to this day. Taking care of things is just part of his nature.

And that’s why, Harold drew up and circulated a petition to form the Soil and Water Conservation District in Calhoun County. With the help of a few other local farmers, it came to pass on April 20, 1948. Harold was one of the founding cooperators, served as chairman in 1952, and was a director for many years.

“My farm had a little old schoolhouse on it, so we held meetings with our local cooperators in that building for years,” Harold explained. “We called them ‘cooperators’ because that’s what we were all doing—cooperating and listening and learning from each other.”

Over the next few years, Harold worked closely with an employee of the Soil Conservation Service (now the Natural Resources Conservation Service).

He spent one summer as a volunteer; holding a survey rod, laying out contour lines, designing and building terraces, along with other conservation practices. Eventually becoming a soil conservation technician.

“One year, I [designed] fifty ponds,” Harold said. “I have six ponds here on my land and they still all look great.”

Once you get a taste for conservation, it’s hard to walk away. Harold retired in 1975, but was already volunteering again the following year. “I thought maybe I could help out,” he says with a smile.

“I think I’m still in the soil conservation business, even at 103. People still call me up. They stop by to visit and they always have questions for me.”

Harold hopes the NRCS keeps serving farmers with dedicated and personal one-on-one service. “That’s what we worked so hard to provide back then and that’s what folks still need today,” Harold said.

Harold Kraut holds an award presented to him in 1954 by Illinois Governor William Stratton, for his outstanding achievements in soil conservation. State leaders evaluated farms statewide, and Calhoun County ranked #2 for the best conservation farms.

Tags: Earth Team Volunteers

categories Farmer & Rancher Stories

1 response(s) to "A Century of Conservation"

William Kautz says:
06/01/2016

We need a billion Harold's on this Earth/World right now!

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