Pioneering in conservation is easier with support

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seedlings

I like to do a bit of reading, and lately, my husband and I have been making an effort to carve out time of our hectic schedule to read together. It might sound silly to some, putting that kind of time and energy into reading, but we hope it fosters a mindset of slowing down, and enjoying simplicities of life together.

As of late, we’ve been reading Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyan, written in the 1670s. It can be a slow read, with all the “Thou” and “Thine” type of talk, but I am really enjoying the metaphor and the true story behind the words on the page.

In Pilgrim’s Progress, the main character, Christian, is weighed down by a heavy burden, one that he has to journey a good ways to get rid of. Christian meets with several people along the way. Evangelist, who shows him the way, Obstinate and Pliable, who try to change his mind of going on this journey and even a Worldly Wiseman, who tries to counsel Christian on how ignorant his plan is.

Deadly areas

Christian also goes through several deadly areas such as the Slough of Despond, and the Valley of Humiliation.

But, through it all, Christian is learning, and he never makes the same mistake or misstep again. On his pilgrimage, Christian is changed, but his determination and his purpose never wanes. Though I haven’t read all of the book yet, and this is a very simplified version of the story; I can see how my first few months as a new Soil and Water employee relate to the journey that Christian is on.

When I started this new career, I was ready to set the world on fire, to reinvent the wheel, and change the ideas of soil health and conservation everywhere.

While I am no less burdened to do that, I have found that the journey that I am on isn’t one that will end in a quick-fix or one that will happen overnight. My pilgrimage to make a difference in the health of soils in Noble County is something that I will be striving for over the length of my entire career.

When I started this job, I was introduced to so many amazing people. People who are the ‘Evangelist’ of my story; these folks can see the need for progress and intuition in farming, and they have amazing and inventive ways to get the work done.

Teaching young employees

I’ve met district conservationists, who spend so much time teaching young employees, like myself, how to build relationships with landowners, and how to tactfully bring better management practices to light.

I also have had the chance to get to know producers who are constantly looking to better their operation through tillage, pasture management and rotational grazing. Among these groups of folks, I have also had the chance to get to know several Soil and Water District’s and their employees whose journey and desire are the same as mine; to promote soil health and longevity through quality management.

It is people like this that remind me that while the journey is long, my burden for change, invention and progress, is one that I am not alone on, and that gives me a great hope for the future.

While the hope for a better tomorrow is out there, there are still more than a few ‘Obstinate’ and ‘Pliable’ neighbors I have to face yet.

The characters

I think we all know some of these characters: the ‘Obstinate’ one’s who are wholeheartedly against new ideas, before you even get the chance to tell them about any.

These are the ones who will say things like, “that’s just how it’s always been done, and if it isn’t broken, it doesn’t need fixing.”

While this is a frustrating mindset to battle, as Soil and Water employees, we have to remember that no matter the landowner, they need the help our office can provide; if it is soil sampling, pasture walk, or equipment rental, all of these interactions lead to conversations that can be had, and relationships that can be built.

They say that Rome wasn’t built in a day, and changing the mindset of the ‘Obstinate’ we encounter will take time and patience as well. With time and patience, I know that the burden I carry for soil health will be lightened due to the changes that are inevitable in farming.

I often am reminded of the progress that agriculture has made in the last 100 years, and I am hopeful that the same heart for progress lives in the producers in my area.

There to lighten the load along my journey, are the many good friends I have met along the way, who have been a helping hand, or a laugh to cheer me up.

With those to support me, I look forward to challenges to come, because like Christian from Pilgrims Progress, I want to know where my weakness lie, so I won’t make a mistake more than a time or two.

I am excited for the future of agriculture, of soil conservation, and my part in the task of change and progress. After all, a journey is only as good as the stories and memories you have to tell of when it’s over, and I hope to have more than a few good ones in the next 30 years.

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