The junction of highways 41 and 30 in northwest Indiana, Lake County, was the place to be last Thursday evening. The Lake County Soil and Water Conservation District held its 62nd annual meeting, and some 200 folks filled the restaurant meeting room.
"We were glad to have so many people there," says Edgar Corns, a retired farmer and current chairman on the Lake County SWCD. "We give them plenty of food, and hopefully everyone goes home full and happy."
And with more knowledge of conservation, it would appear. The Lake County SWCD operates one of the larger soil and water conservation education programs in the state, hosting educational activities of various kinds for both children and adults. The SWCD participates in the annual event for 4th graders sponsored by the Lake County Extension Service each year, in which children, many of them from city settings, learn about farm animals, soil and water conservations, and other elements related to the outdoors and the environment.
"This was the biggest annual meeting in terms of attendance I've been to this year," says Jim Lake, a specialist with the Indiana State Department of Agriculture, Division of Soil Conservation. Based in northeast Indiana, he attended the meeting to advise the district on how to conduct supervisor elections. The support position for the counties in northwest Indiana with ISDA is currently vacant.
Two programs that Lake County SWCD conducts are worthy of special note. Phyllis Reeder, long-time district coordinator, explains that the SWCD encourages affiliate membership. This comes in several forms- corporate, supporting, or individual. Those signing up pay $100, $50 and $25 per year, respectively. Currently, the list of affiliates is over 130, with about 30 of those being corporate sponsors.
A couple of other counties are trying this approach, and state soil and water leadership is aware of it, but so far the program has not been adapted statewide, Corns notes. "We began the program with just a few members several years ago, and it's now grown," he says.
Money donated to the SWCD through the program directly supports the SWCD's education program. "We have money for staff from the county, but not supplies and equipment that our education folks need to use to be effective," Corns says.
The second notable accomplishment is a major tillage training meeting coming up later this week. The Lake County SWCD and Lake County Extension cooperate to host the meeting. It's one of the last meetings held during the winter/early spring season where farmers can obtain credit toward their private pesticide applicator's license by attending.
This year's event is this Wednesday, March 29- a breakfast meeting from 7:30 am to 11:30 a.m., local time, to be held at Harry O's Restaurant in the area. Topics include information on soybean rust, corn rootworm, and Farm Service Agency updates. Speakers include local specialists, plus Corey Gerber and Greg Shaner from Purdue University.
For more details, contact the Lake County SWCD at 219-663-7042.