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Texas NRCS Employees Visit Lubbock for FWP Conference

The Texas State Federal Women's Program (FWP) meeting was a success in the High Plains region with almost 75 NRCS employees in attendance.

The morning session started at the Bayer Museum of Agriculture, a popular tourist site in Lubbock. Maria Hrebik, FWP manager and Shannon Rowley, FWP secretary, opened the meeting with welcome remarks and introductions.

"As the FWP manager I am honored to have the opportunity to provide employee training such as this one that delivers useful training and career development to our Texas NRCS employees," Hrebik said. "FWP will continue having these meetings throughout the state as long as funding is available to provide these training opportunities to our employees."

The day was filled with good speakers and activities for young and seasoned personnel. A presentation from Scott Longing, Ph.D. professor in the Plant and Soil Science Department at Texas Tech University (TTU), kicked off the morning session with an insightful program on a partnership project with NRCS through a Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG). Longing is the CIG project director for the demonstration of pollinator conservation practices and framework for regional implementation on the Southern High Plains. Since 2016, the partnership has established several pollinator habitat demonstration sites on local farms. The 2017-2018 Pollinator Trail is in the works and consists of a group of local farms where pollinator habitat demonstrations are being established as part of the CIG. These participating farms have been seeded with different mixes of wildflowers and other pollinator-friendly plants, with over-seeding and additional habitat demonstrations continuing through 2018.

Employees also received training from state personnel on applying for career positions. State Administrative Program Specialist Tony Townsend from Temple, and Assistant State Conservationist Elisa Kuehn from San Angelo, encouraged the group to read the application process thoroughly and take the time to fill the information out correctly. Potential applicants learned tips on how to improve their résumé and applications.

Before attendees traveled to another location for lunch, they were provided a special tour of the museum by a local volunteer docent. The group learned about the farming history of the area and had the opportunity to see many antique tractors and farming implements.

The luncheon and afternoon session were hosted by local producers Dan and Linda Taylor at their farm near Ropesville. Darren Richardson, assistant state conservationist in the High Plains region presented during lunch, giving an informative account of his experiences serving with the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in western Afghanistan. Richardson explained his role in working on the PRT teams to provide technical assistance to the local people. He said water is a precious commodity where he worked in the region and an integral part of his job was helping with the irrigation water management of their crops. Wheat was one of their primary crops grown where he assisted the farmers with timing their irrigation to prevent over watering. Richardson completed several tours of duty serving on a PRT team and received the prestigious Tom Stefani Distinguished Service Award in 2014. This award is presented annually to individuals who have served abroad for the USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) whose performance and accomplishments best exemplify the spirit of the award.

Training resumed in the afternoon with Jason Johnson, economist with the AgriLife Extension Service. Johnson offered an educational and humorous insight to financial planning, including thrift savings plan (TSP) information.

The day concluded with comments from the Taylors. Linda, a well-known female producer in the area and advocate of agriculture and conservation, summarized her story in agriculture explaining the challenges they've faced and the successes they've celebrated in the past 30+ years of farming and owning and operating a cotton gin. She commended the women in the audience who work in agriculture and the NRCS agency for helping producers apply conservation on the land as she and her husband have done through the years. Dan is as passionate about the agricultural industry as Linda, explaining it isn't for the weak at heart. He explained how people in agriculture are driven and willing to help one another at every turn. Both Dan and Linda agreed they didn't believe there is any other occupation they could be in to find the honesty, integrity and kindness of people as there is in the agricultural industry.

The FWP is a special emphasis program within the Equal Opportunity Program of the U.S. Government. The Texas FWP is committed to offering all NRCS employees many opportunities for self-development such as on-the-job trainings, meetings and programs.

Texas NRCS Employees visit Lubbock for FWP Conference,Quenna Terry, NRCS Public Affairs Specialist(2018, June)