MASSILLON, Ohio – For the past 30 years, Terry Gram has had a front row seat to watch the changes in natural resources conservation practices.
He parlayed his farm youth into a summer job at the Stark Soil and Water Conservation District back in 1975, then was hired as a full-time district aide in 1977.
Working with landowners cooperating with the SWCD, he helped plan and implement soil erosion plans and conservation practices until 1986, when he rejoined his family’s orchard near East Canton.
But he couldn’t stay away, and two years later he was elected to the SWCD board, rejoining the conservation family, this time as a volunteer leader.
At the end of this year, Gram will ‘retire’ with 18 years as a supervisor, including several terms as board chairman, representative to the Crossroads Resource Conservation and Development board, and service as Area II director to the Ohio Federation of Soil and Water Conservation Districts.
Out with a smile. The district staff and other volunteer leaders couldn’t let Gram’s dedication go unnoticed, so they planned a surprise salute at the district’s annual meeting Nov. 3 at the Perry Grange.
Office Manager Carolyn Gabric dug into the archives to discover Gram earned a whopping $2.98 an hour that first summer as an intern, and only a computer malfunction prevented the group from seeing the bushy Afro-type hairstyle he sported back then.
USDA NRCS assistant state conservationist Jon Warner, who worked in Stark County with Gram in the late 1970s, shared a couple of stories, and laughs, from those early days, as did Dan Ross, now NRCS urban resource conservationist in Summit County.
A lot of history. But both Warner and Ross sent Gram off with serious appreciation, saying the history of Stark SWCD is forever linked with Terry Gram.
Noting the banquet marked the 55th year for the district, Ross told Gram, “You look at this history, and you’ve been involved at least half of the time.”
And Warner encouraged the crowd to realize their good fortune to have had someone onboard for such a long time who combines farm experience and technical insight.
“It’s been a great run here in Stark County for you,” Warner said.
County Commissioner Richard Regula presented Gram a proclamation for his dedication on behalf of the commissioners.
Election. In the board election held during the annual meeting, Gary Ramsey of Louisville was elected to succeed Gram on the board. Jim Halter, current vice chairman, was re-elected to the board.
Other current board members are Jennifer Smith, chairman; Clark Bowser and Rodney Campbell.
Ag and urban component. The work of the Stark Soil and Water Conservation District is split between traditional farm outreach and installations, and urban planning reviews and construction site inspections.
Andy Bayham, district conservationist with the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in Stark County, and Gretl Cowling, USDA soil conservationist technician, recapped some of the agricultural practices the district assisted this year, including construction of nearly four miles of grassed waterways, design of three manure structures, and technical assistance for several EQIP forestry projects.
Through the federal cost-share programs, the district was able to help bring $474,171 into the county for conservation measures.
The district also has the responsibility to review erosion and sediment control plans for construction projects in much of the county. According to Urban Coordinator Julie Berbari, more than 210 site plans were reviewed, and then each site is inspected twice a month.
There are currently more than 150 active construction sites to inspect.
The evening’s entertainment was provided by the Washingtonians, the show choir from Washington High School in Massillon.
(Editor Susan Crowell can be reached at 1-800-837-3419 or at email@example.com.)
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