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Once a Conservationist, always a Conservationist

By Quenna Terry, NRCS Public Affairs Specialist ♦ April 2020

Fred Allison said he knew he wanted to be a conservationist at age eight.  After working 47 years for the USDA – Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and retiring, his passion never waned.  He retired in 2013, the same year he became an Earth Team Volunteer (ETV).Fred Allison is a dedicated Earth Team Volunteer working directly with farmers and ranchers in Wheeler, Texas.

His volunteer work for NRCS is in Wheeler, located in the northeastern area of the Texas Panhandle.  We are proud to announce Fred is the first Texas Earth Team Volunteer to be recognized as a regional winner for the invaluable contributions he made to NRCS.  Fred was also selected as the NRCS Central Region’s winner for Individual Volunteer Award on the national level.

What makes Fred’s help unique is his experience, knowledge and understanding of technical assistance.  He has worked countless hours as an ETV volunteer to accomplish what limited field staff could not get to, and to assist in mentoring and training of new employees.

District Conservationist Calvin Devereaux in Wheeler said, “If it wasn’t for Fred, I wouldn’t be able to do the field work as timely as we’ve done it.  It’s good to have an Earth Team Volunteer like him.”

As we walked through a field where Fred had helped a producer plan and install a new water storage facility, he said, “It was always in my blood to work for the SCS and NRCS.”  He explained his older brother worked for the Soil Conservation Service (SCS) from 1949 through 1957.  When he was a young kid, he remembers wanting to do the same work his brother was doing as a professional.

Fred earned a Bachelor of Science degree in range management and agronomy from Abilene Christian College, and shortly after he graduated, he started working for SCS in 1967.  He worked for the agency in the Texas Panhandle region for 20 years from 1987 until he retired. 

Becoming an ETV was easy for Fred, and because of the relationships he had developed over the years, his decision to volunteer was a huge benefit to the community. 

This year marks Fred’s seventh year as an ETV, and he has completed technical assistance and Farm Bill program planning on 52,800 feet of cross fencing; 26,400 feet of livestock pipelines; 100 water storage facilities; 60 solar pumps; 10 electric pumps; 100 water wells; more than 500 acres of native grass plantings; 10 center pivot sprinkler replacements to increase irrigation efficiencies; conservation planning on 50,000 acres for Lesser Prairie Chickens; assisting with Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) – Grassland Conservation Initiative (GCI) on 10,000 acres; assisting with conservation planning on 20,000 acres; assisting with Watershed Dams Operations & Management and prescribed grazing plans on 30,000 acres.

Fred emphatically said, “Technical assistance is the best help we can give landowners and producers.”(L) Fred Allison, earth team volunteer  and Calvin Devereaux, district conservationist of Wheeler work together on watershed dam rehabilitation in their county.

He shared an example of why NRCS’ technical assistance is so valuable explaining ranchers are incorporating the prescribed grazing conservation practice more into their grazing systems because they are seeing the benefits of higher quality and availability of forage produced.

“We can point out things to help a producer improve their operation but they’re the ones that have to carry out the practice and management,” he said.

Fred continues his lifelong work as a conservationist through the ETV program because he thinks of it as a profession and not a job.  He hopes NRCS can build their ETV program with more science-based knowledge professionals in the future.

“If you had to teach what Fred knows, you couldn’t,” Devereaux said. “You can’t put a price on the help he provides to our clientele.  He’s worked for the service, he knows our routine, knows our programs and the importance of technical assistance.”

Fred said the most rewarding experience of being an ETV is seeing the young folks he’s helped train, advance in the agency.