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Maryland NRCS CRAC Blog

Navigating the workplace as a woman

By Jennifer Richardson
Maryland Federal Women's SEPM

March 28, 2022

March has flown by and the conclusion of Women’s History Month for 2022 is almost here. Before we close the door on this month, I’d like to share some information provided by the employee organization Women in NRCS (WiN) as part of their weekly newsletters to members. As a working professional, at some point in your career you may find yourself confronted with either an angry coworker or customer and are at a loss on how to appropriately respond to that anger. For most women (myself included!), our first reaction is to apologize for angering the other party and attempt to smooth things over with no further conflict. Crucial Conversations author Emily Gregory explains how to take control of your emotions and respond productively to someone who is mad at you in this short video from her YouTube channel Crucial Conversations. The key is to acknowledge how your actions may be responsible for their anger but in no case should you take responsibility for their emotions. She advises that you should acknowledge the other persons reactions, thank them for bringing the issue to your attention, encourage them to provide you with a solution, and lastly, know when to apologize if in fact an apology is due. I hope I never need this advice, but after watching this video I feel better prepared to handle myself if this situation arises.

For more information about joining Women in NRCS, head over to their webpage HERE or send me an email and I’d be happy to answer any questions you have about the organization. As Dolly Parton would say, “Find out who you are and do it on purpose.” Happy Women’s History Month everyone!

A man sitting and smilingCelebrating Booker T. Whatley and his farming innovations

By Holly Bohart
Earth Team Volunteer

February 2, 2022

Black History Month spotlights some of the innumerable achievements and contributions of Black Americans. This time set aside for celebration and acknowledgment of Black people’s central role in American history grew out of efforts by Carter G. Woodson to increase the understanding of the public and school children about Black lives and history. To support these efforts, he established the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (now the Association for the Study of African American Life and History) and, in 1926, founded Negro History Week. You can read more about Dr. Woodson’s work here:

While well-known figures such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks are often the focus of Black History Month, there are so many other individuals to celebrate for their contributions to agriculture, science, literature, and other fields. Booker T. Whatley (1915–2005), for example, was an early proponent of agricultural processes and ideas that many of us are familiar with and use today. A Black horticulturist, author, and agricultural professor at Tuskegee University in Alabama, Whatley advocated for sustainable agricultural and business practices for small farmers, especially Black farmers who were routinely denied funding and other government support for their businesses.

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Whatley developed several principles that he felt would allow small farms to be profitable, thrive, and support their communities. Along with paying close attention to their soil and other physical resources, Whatley maintained that small farmers should grow a variety of high-value crops and use innovative marketing. But his hallmark plan for small farm profitability involved clientele membership clubs, a forerunner of the community supported agriculture (CSA) model, and pick-your-own farms. Having funds up front and members who picked their own produce would provide a guaranteed market for the farmer, reduce labor costs, and support the local community.

Whatley traveled the country and internationally teaching about his ideas, which were compiled and published in his 1987 handbook, "How to Make $100,000 Farming 25 Acres." Included were his 10 Commandments for Small Farmers, such as “produce only what thy clients demand,” and “shun middlemen and middlewomen like the plague.” Other practices he espoused included establishing relationships with customers and offering value-added products. His ideas have helped propel growing consumer interest in getting to know farmers and where one’s food is coming from.

Black History Month helps make visible the people who have created change — and still are — in the U.S. and around the world. To learn more about Booker T. Whatley and other Black farmer-innovators, here are just a few sources to start with:

A graphic of Martin Luther King, Jr. in front of an American flag.Honoring the Memory of Dr. King

By Laura Eddy

January 10, 2022

January 17th, 2022, marks Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a time to commemorate the achievements and observe the birthday of the Civil Rights hero, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. While we celebrate this holiday on the third Monday of January, Dr. King’s actual date of birth was January 15th, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia. Dr. King is a well-known and highly respected leader of the Civil Rights movement, and championed equal rights for African Americans through non-violent protest and civil disobedience. Martin Luther King Jr. helped organize and participated in a large number of important Civil Rights events, including the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott, the 1963 protests in Birmingham, Alabama, the 1963 March on Washington (where he delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech), several of the 1965 Selma to Montgomery marches, and more. In 1964, Dr. King was the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for standing up to racial inequality by employing non-violent tactics. Martin Luther King Jr. was tragically assassinated on April 4, 1968, which prompted widespread rage and riots throughout the country. After his death, Dr. King was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977, the Congressional Gold Medal in 2003, and a monument that was dedicated his honor on August 22nd, 2011. Each year on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, people across the country honor his memory by participating in a Day of Service, where volunteers from all walks of life donate their time and energy to a variety of causes where they can help others, strengthen our communities, and make a difference. Dr. King continues to inspire our country to stand together in the mission of making the world a better place for all people.

To find out more about Martin Luther King Jr. and his accomplishments, please follow this link to the National Park Service’s Martin Luther King Jr. memorial page. There are many resources to explore and so much to learn.

As we prepare to celebrate MLK Day 2022, please take some time to reflect on a few of the poignant quotes engraved on the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in remembrance of Dr. King and what he stood for:

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that." - Strength to Love, 1963.

"I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant." - Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, Oslo, Norway, 1964.

"Make a career of humanity. Commit yourself to the noble struggle for equal rights. You will make a better person of yourself, a greater nation of your country, and a finer world to live in." - March for Integrated Schools, April 18, 1959.

Join the Civil Rights Advisory Committee

By Laura Eddy

December 21, 2021

The Civil Rights Advisory Committee is looking to recruit new members! We still have four positions open to be filled. Being a member of Maryland’s Civil Rights Advisory Committee provides the opportunity to develop new skills, connect with new people, and be involved in decision making processes that impact the whole state.

Remaining open CRAC Positions:

• Vice-Chair - This position will serve in a leadership role to conduct CRAC related activities and ensure the group is staying on track with goals. Some activities may include business plan development and tracking, meeting coordination, and oversight of sub-committees.

• Black SEPM - This position will serve as the special emphasis program manager for the Black special emphasis group. Some activities include developing a personal business plan for the fiscal year, presenting on your group at least once during your 3 year term, developing/spreading celebration month content, and serving as an advocate for your group. Black History Month is February.

• Hispanic SEPM - This position will serve as the special emphasis program manager for the Hispanic special emphasis group. Some activities include developing a personal business plan for the fiscal year, presenting on your group at least once during your 3 year term, developing/spreading celebration month content, and serving as an advocate for your group. Hispanic Heritage Month is September 15th – October 15th.

• Associate Member – We have one Associate Member position still available. This is a non-voting position. The role of an Associate Member is to graduate to a voting member upon vacancy of a SEPM or At-Large position. An Associate Member converting to a voting member shall fulfill a voting member term of three years. If the conversion occurs in the middle of the fiscal year, the partial year shall count as one year of the term.

We hope that you will consider working alongside our existing team members to make a difference within our agency and for our customers. Terms on the committee are three years. The commitment usually entails four quarterly meetings each year, participation on a sub-committee to help organize and implement CRAC goals, and other specialized duties depending on your position. Please reach out to David Kidwell-Slak ( or Laura Eddy ( for more details on each position, and do not hesitate to inquire with other current or former CRAC members to gather more details involving this collateral duty. For those who are interested, please gain supervisor approval, and submit your name to David Kidwell-Slak.

The people pose in front of an aircraft.Operation Warfighter a Win-Win for Veterans and Federal Agencies

By Christopher Schlette

November 23, 2021

One of the days in November that generates reflection for me, besides Thanksgiving, is Veterans Day. This is the one day that allows us, as an individual, organization, and/or a country, to thank Veterans that have “supported and defended the Constitution of the United States.” These are ordinary people, “who, at one point in his or her life, wrote a blank check made payable to ‘The United States of America,' for an amount of up to and including their life.’"

Overall, I had served our country honorably for just over 27 years in aircraft maintenance, the first nine years were as a Traditional Guardsman, six years as a federal technician, and my last 18 years as an Active Guard Reserve (Active-Duty Guard). Back in 2017, I knew I would not be able to obtain a full 20-year Active-Duty retirement, due to health issues that prevented me from inspecting aircraft maintenance tasks on personnel assigned to me. Therefore, I was to start the process of being medically retired.

In the summer of 2018, I discovered a program identified as Operation Warfighter (OWF). It is an internship program through the Department of Defense (DOD) that offers an opportunity for wounded, ill, or injured servicemembers to obtain civilian work experience as he or she transitions from military life to the civilian sector.

As most of you all within Maryland NRCS are aware, our former Soil Conservationist from Prince George’s County, Aaron McCann, brought me onboard as a Soil Conservationist Intern. Our former District Conservationist, and now ASTC-Programs Heydsha Cordero, afforded me the opportunity to illustrate my skillset at our State Office, and our State Conservationist, Dr. Hillsman rolled the dice and took a chance on hiring me as the new Financial Resources Specialist. Since my arrival as an intern in November of 2018 and my federal hiring of May 2019, I have been blessed and humbled.

All in all, Operation Warfighter serves two folds. It allows federal agencies to hire interns at no expense to its own allocations and the agency has an opportunity to evaluate a servicemember that still has the drive to serve our Country. In the end, this is a Win-Win for our Agency and servicemembers.

A graphic map of the United States with people representing the Disability community.Great Achievements in the Disability Community

By Sam Engler

October 18, 2021

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month; we should take some time to reflect on the achievements of the Disability community. Just over a month ago the 2020 Summer Paralympics was held, pushed back to 2021 due to the COVID pandemic. It was the 16th Summer Paralympic Games, the first official games dating back to 1960 in Rome. The United States came in third in the gold medal count (37), behind Great Britain (41), and China (96). Several of our US athletes’ broke records. Sprinter Nick Mayhugh set world records in the men’s 100 and 200 meter as well as in the first ever 4x100 meter universal relay along with Tatyana McFadden, Brittni Mason, and Noah Malone. Seventeen year old swimmer Anastasia Pagonis broke her own world record in the women’s 400 meter freestyle.

The first organized games started as an event for British WWII vets with spinal cord injuries on the opening day of the 1948 summer Olympics. Each year the games have grown, adding more events, countries, and athletes. The 2020 Paralympics involved 4,403 athletes from 162 countries and 539 events in 22 sports. The competitions are broken up in categories: impaired muscle power, impaired passive range of movement, limb deficiency, leg length difference, short stature, hypertonia, ataxia, athetosis, vision impairment, and intellectual impairment.

Throughout the years the Paralympic games have helped change the views on people with disabilities moving towards equality and social inclusion. They have brought millions of dollars to host cities such as Beijing, Vancouver, London, Sochi, Rio De Janeiro, and now Tokyo. This money is to invest in accessibility for their cities. It is used to make all new stadiums and arenas for the games accessible to all, as well as adding infrastructure throughout the city and major tourist locations in the surrounding areas. Following the games in Beijing in 2008, China was a leader in creating the United Nations convention on the rights of Persons with Disabilities, an international human rights treaty. In London in 2012 the BBC ensured at least half of the reporters for the games were living with impairments.

The Paralympics are a great way to show the strength and skill of these athletes and diminish some of the harmful and negative stereotypes that have been linked to people with disabilities.


A graphic about Hispanic Heritage Month

Celebrating Hispanics’ Contributions to American Agriculture and Conservation

By Andrew Zimmerman

October 7, 2021

During Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15 - Oct. 15), we should all take time to reflect on the many contributions Hispanics have made in agriculture. For this year’s Hispanic Heritage Month, I would like to briefly talk about former U.S. Representative Eligio “Kika” de la Garza II. While Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee (1981-1994), Rep. de la Garza helped pass 3 farm bills, the Agricultural Credit Act of 1987, and the North American Free Trade Agreement. The passing of the Agricultural Credit Act of 1987 helped struggling farm credit lending institutions by authorizing up to $4 billion of federal spending money, while NAFTA helped promote trade between Canada, North America, and Mexico by lifting tariffs on many goods traded between the countries. Rep. de la Garza II is also a founding member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute which is dedicated to developing the next generation on young Latino Leaders. Through his various contributions, Rep. de la Garza II has helped pave the way for future generations of Hispanic leaders and producers as seen in the 2017 Ag Census.

According to the 2017 census, there are 86,278 farms with 112,451 Hispanic producers operating them across 32,079,910 acres within the United States. This number is a 13% increase from the previous census taken in 2012. Of this, Maryland accounts for 247 farms, 267 Hispanic producers, across 17,267 acres. Montgomery, Carroll, Washington, Prince George’s, and Wicomico account for most Hispanic producers in Maryland. Overall, Hispanic producers are responsible for $8.6 billion of agricultural products. When you see a Hispanic Farmer during Hispanic Heritage month, please take the time to thank them for their many contributions to our agricultural economy.

We encourage you to learn more about the history of Hispanic Heritage Month, and some exciting ways you can celebrate by visiting On Sept. 29, NRCS hosted a Hispanic Heritage Month event-  “’Esperanza: A Celebration of Hispanic Heritage and Hope’ Latinas in Conservation Confirmation.” This event emphasized Latin American traditions and allowed us to celebrate and learn about the diverse Latin American culture together. This short video, Consejos de Conservacionitas, shares “Words to Live By from Latinx Conservationists”. This uplifting video shares words of wisdom and highlights some of the many Latinx conservationists we have the honor to work with in our agency.


Graphic image with the Statue of Liberty and the words

Civil Rights Event 2021 — Virtual Scavenger Hunt

By Laura Eddy

August 9, 2021

On each Friday during the month of July 2021, Maryland’s Civil Rights Advisory Committee celebrated Civil Rights by hosting a scavenger hunt based on videos from the U.S. Civil Rights Trail. With 13 videos in all, employees and partners had an opportunity to “learn more about the heroes, events and places that changed our world.” If you did not have a chance to follow along with us during our month-long adventure, we encourage you to check out the U.S. Civil Rights Trail video gallery when you have some time. Each video is only a few minutes long, and tells the story of a pivotal Civil Rights related historic event in the words of an individual who witnessed it with their own eyes.

Congratulations to our winners of the weekly scavenger hunt listed below!

Week 1:
First Place – Michael Montillo – NRCS, La Plata, MD
Second Place – Jacob Kiessling – NRCS, La Plata, MD
Week 2:
First Place – Michael Mingus - WMRC&D, Annapolis, MD
Second Place – Rachel Yeatman – NRCS, La Plata, MD
Week 3:
First Place – Kimberly Reynolds - SMRC&D, Denton, MD
Second Place – Charlotte Brewster – NRCS, Derwood, MD
Week 4:
First Place – Dana Rushovich - NRCS, Cooksville, MD
Second Place – Caroline Trossbach - MDA, Leonardtown, MD
Week 5:
First Place – Valinda Clark – SMRC&D, La Plata, MD
Second Place – Lindsey Rash – NRCS, Denton, MD
“Lucky Loser” Drawing:
Zachary Berry – NRCS, Centreville, MD

A big thank you to everyone who participated! We would love to know what you think about this event, and would love to learn more about what we can do to improve future events.