Monday, May 6, 2013

Who is the Division of Soil Conservation?

By Logan Garner

Division of Soil Conservation staff June 2012

You read that right: “Who?”  Indiana’s State Department of Agriculture is more than just a collection of divisions and offices, to be sure.  The Division of Soil Conservation is no different.  A diverse group of individuals (with an even more diverse set of skills, knowledge and responsibilities) make up the soils division, whose primary goal is to advocate for and reach out to Indiana’s citizens across the state regarding their agricultural, conservation and informational needs.  It’s time for a review of those people out and about the state of Indiana as well as those who work behind the scenes to bring a face and a voice from ISDA to the citizens it serves.  

District Support Specialist Laura Fribley, Resource Specialist Sue Gerlach, Resource Specialist Cassandra Vondran

Resource Specialists (RS)—These people are the Division of Soil Conservation’s bread and butter.  “Resource specialist” is not just a clever name, as these field staff really do specialize in providing you with valuable resources!   These folks work and live across the state where they connect farmers and other individuals to local, state and federal cost-share programs and grants, agricultural and conservation organizations alike, as well as local and regional events from which local knowledge and resources are shared.   
They also provide technical assistance, and are our “boots on the ground” here at the Division of Soil Conservation when it comes to surveying, designing and implementing conservation practices.  Resource Specialists serve in many capacities and usually have other roles as well (as you can see just below!).  They are housed within local NRCS and Soil and Water Conservation District offices, and if one cannot be found in your county, you can bet there’s one close by whose area of service certainly includes your own.

Program Manager Jordan Seger and District Support Specialist Geneva Rawlins

District Support Specialists (DSS) – Just as their name indicates, DSSs operate specifically in a supportive capacity for local Soil and Water Conservation Districts.  This support comes in all forms, from aiding in planning and organization, to running normal operations within the district, to building capacity and outreach, and even to training for legal, administrative or conservation program-related tasks.  In short, a District Support Specialist serves the local SWCD office much like Resource Specialists serve individuals. 

Middle Wabash-Busseron watershed CREP Leader Dale Walker

CREP Leaders—CREP, or the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, is active in eleven large watersheds across the state.  In each of these watersheds there is a CREP Leader: a Resource Specialist specifically tasked with reaching out to, educating and enrolling landowners in this cost-share program.  Along-side their regular duties as Resource Specialists, CREP Leaders are there to guide anyone who is interested in the environmental and economic benefits this program provides. 

Jim Woody, Team Leader

Team Leaders—Team Leaders are yet another important aspect of the Division’s field presence.  These individuals represent their own section in the state and serve as managers to the rest of the RSs and CREP Leaders in their respective areas.  And—you guessed it—they ALSO hold the duties and responsibilities of any Resource Specialist.  Team Leaders work hard to ensure that the rest of us are trained, well-informed and working together to fulfill the needs of those who seek us out (and those whom we seek out).  As with all these roles, Team Leaders’ jobs are multi-faceted and shaped by the many needs and partnerships that exist in Indiana. 

Program Manager Deb Fairhurst and District Support Specialist Laura Fribley, Goose Pond tour with State Soil Conservation Board 2010
Support Staff—What is a field staff without its support?  The “behind the scenes” staff for the Division of Soil Conservation gets around plenty, but mostly works in the state office in Indianapolis.  From here and there (and everywhere, really), administrative staff and program managers are responsible for the travel, training and communication between field staff as well as communication between conservation partners and local, state and federal entities.  Program managers ensure the smooth operation of ISDA’s and the Division’s many programs and initiatives.  Administrative staff processes payments, contracts and grants, and organize meetings.  They generate literature, maps and press releases for events and programs all over the state. Heck, some of them even get out to the field and get their hands dirty from time to time! Support staff are also responsible for logistics and support to the State Soil Conservation Board, but that's another blog post. 

If you know anyone from the Division of Soil Conservation, you know he or she wears many hats.  Many of us here are active members in organizations and committees in our own communities at home as well.  Maybe yours is one of those!

More information on Technical Assistance:
More information on District Support:
Contact the Division of Soil Conservation: 

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