Champaign, IL—Getting customized conservation solutions on acres and acres of farmland takes people, science-based incentive programs, and a lot of passion. The NRCS team in Clark-Crawford-Cumberland-Jasper Counties found all three and bought them together for a winning combination. The team was just presented the Illinois NRCS Earth Team District Group of the Year award for recruiting local volunteers who improved the land. State Conservationist Ivan Dozier presented the traveling award to thank and recognize employees at the NRCS Field Office in Martinsville on March 21st.
“Finding volunteers willing to use their time and talents to conserve and protect natural resources can be tricky,” says District Conservationist Laura Klingler. But with great relationships between local farmers, dedicated staff, and key conservation partners, everything came together to make a splash right here in Clark County.”
The Clark County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) owns a drill designed to plant native grass and flower seeds. They rent the drill to local farmers to establish or convert special areas to grass or prairie but don’t own the right equipment to do it. Since he was high school student in Martinsville, IL Shadow Wallace, had an interest in agriculture. He worked closely with local farmer Mark Kannmacher since 2015 and ultimately crossed paths with NRCS Soil Conservationist Jason Conner and Clark County SWCD’s Resource Conservationist Jim Nestleroad.
These interactions taught Shadow about conservation programs, planting equipment, and sustainable farming techniques. According to NRCS, Shadow learned conservation concepts and sustainable practices easily. He successfully ran the District’s drill and became knowledgeable about seed and soil conditions, species standards, and details involved in state and federal conservation program requirements.
“Because local interest in creating pollinator habitat is on the rise, NRCS clients need help with CRP seedings and plantings. We asked Shadow if he’d be interested in helping us out by helping local farmers,” Conner explains. Shadow jumped at the chance and brought along a friend, Elizabeth Golladay, to take on the task. They signed up as official NRCS Earth Team volunteers in the spring of 2017 and together, planted more than 382 acres in Clark and neighboring counties. They worked one-on-one with producers, kept track of acres planted and all the seed tags so farmers had proper records for program contracts and reimbursements.
Klingler enjoys seeing staff and partners work together using talented volunteers to put solutions on the land. “These young people made a real difference in their local landscape. NRCS and the District leveraged state and federal dollars and programs with volunteer skills and energy to put trees, pollinator species, and deep-rooted grasses where we need them most,” adds Klingler.
“Using volunteers, NRCS helps farmers achieve conservation goals and access equipment and skills that improves our success,” Dozier said. “Our agency, our partners, and our customers can accomplish more and make long-term improvements on the land.” Congratulations to the NRCS District Group staff and the amazing local volunteers!