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Barton County Conservation District changes it up for 72nd annual meeting
New director, new location, and new entertainment mark a new direction
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2018 Barton County Bankers Awards winners recognized Thursday evening included: Paul Pack,Energy Conservation; Kathryn Yager,Soil Conservation; Linda Essmiller on behalf of Essmiller Brothers Farms, LTD, Water Quantity. Not present was Richard Rugan on behalf of Rugan 3 Farms, Rangeland Conservation and T.R. Esfeld, Windbreak; Paul Pack,Energy Conservation. - photo by Veronica Coons

HOISINGTON — Thursday night marked another step in the Barton County Conservation District’s efforts to bring the 72-year-old organization in a new direction. With a new district manager, Sara Martinz, at the helm, the board of directors opted to give the annual meeting a whole new feel. The meeting was held at the Hoisington Knights of Columbus hall for the first time, and homegrown talent was provided by an award winning group of Hoisington High School Forensics and Debate team members, giving many a rare chance to witness first hand the students’ performing abilities. 

Tuesday night, a home basketball game was postponed until Thursday due to weather. This last-minute change meant three seniors were unable to perform. Sage Martinz, also a senior, opted to forego Senior Night activities, and was on hand in a show of support for her teammates and her mom. The evening alternated between serious and humorous performances. Martinz performed a serious solo, as did Karen Lovett. Garrett Dykes performed a humorous solo, and Logan Hammeke performed a humorous prose. Dykes and was joined by Payton Dykes in performing a humours improvised duet. 

“It’s nice to give the community a small sample of what we do,” HHS Forensics and Debate Sponsor Marion Oborny said. “Family and friends support us, but don’t often get the chance to see us perform.” 

Melissa Woydziak, BCCD Chairman, welcomed members and friends to the gathering, and got the business of the evening out of the way. Treasurer Ken Koester provided the 2018 Financial Report. Vice Chairman Tom Burns then spoke, thanking Koester, who would not be returning for another term, for his nine years of service to the District. Nominations for his position were taking from the floor, resulting in two nominees, Bruce Coons and Darren Nicolet. Votes were tallied and Nicolet was announced the winner.  

In related news, on Feb. 19, Erika Brining was appointed to the Board of Supervisors at the monthly board meeting. She will complete the remaining year of Greg Axman’s term. It was noted in the program that Brining, as a farm wife, has been involved in a family farming operation for 26 years. That operation has been very involved with conservation, farm technology and research. After the farmland was rented out, she has been involved as a member of the family land company. Since 1989, she has been in the Human Resources field and is currently a self-employed HR Consultant at her company, HR Pro. 

Martinz presented the 2018 District Annual Report. In February, 2018, the BCCD, NRCS and FSA moved to their new location at 926 Patton Road in Great Bend. 

Community activities the district took part in over the year included a shared booth with Rush and Pawnee County conservation districts at the Great Bend Farm and Ranch show in April, Kids Ag Day in September, Wetland Education Day for second graders at Kansas Wetland Education Center, attendance at the Kansas Association of Conservation Districts annual convention in Wichita in November, and attendance at the KWEC Chamber Coffee in November. 

It was at the KACD annual convention that Pam Tucker was recognized for her 40 years of service to the BCCD. Tucker retired in December, and Martinz was hired as District Manager Dec. 1. 

The BCCD administered two cost share programs, the State Water Resource Cost-Share Program and the Non-Point Source Pollution Program. Between the two programs, over $26,000 was allocated to Barton County projects. 

“Education was a very high priority for me when I was hired,” Martinz said. “I feel one way of improving our conservation education is by improving our contact with our school system throughout the county.” 

NRCS Supervisory District Conservationist Ron Klein presented the 2018 Conservation report. The Natural Resource Conservation Service oversees the federal government’s Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) and Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) contracts, which were debated during the run up to passage of the 2018 Farm Bill. In 2018, the Barton County USDA-NRCS field office funded two CSP contracts for $123,034, and 22 EQIP contracts for $308,709.20. 

“EQIP is like a giant toolbox for conservation,” Klein said. “You can do just about anything you want for improving the ground through the EQIP program.”

Contracts vary depending on what the landowner wants to do, as long as resource concerns are addressed, he added. Some examples included erosion, water quality, grassland management, even alternative energy. Twenty-two projects were contracted, and for all Farm Bill related programs, $1,188,503.12 in total payments were made for conservation activities in Barton County. Dan Frieb, NRCS Conservation Technician, expounded upon the accomplishments of the BCCD, noting that 762 customers had been assisted in participating in NRCS projects. 

Key Banker Shane Dicks and Klein presented the 2018 Banker’s Awards. Conservation Awards went to five individuals and farms this year. They included Kathryn Yager, Claflin, receiving the Soil Conservation award; Linda Essmiller, Great Bend, on behalf of Essmiller Brothers Farms, LTD, receiving the Water Quantity award; T.R. Esfeld, Great Bend, receiving the Windbreak award; Richard Rugan, Claflin, on behalf of Rugan 3 Farms, receiving the Rangeland Conservation award; and Paul Pack, Great Bend, receiving the Energy Conservation award. All five were featured in the Great Bend Tribune’s Barton County Conservation Winners special section appearing the Thursday, Feb. 21, edition. 

The Barton County Conservation District is funded through operations funds including allocations from the county and the state, and transfers from enterprise funds including drip irrigation sales, grass seed sales, weed barrier sales, and no-till drill rental. All enterprise related purchases can be made that the BCCD office at the Patton Road location. 

The annual meeting sponsors included Community Bank of the Midwest, Great Bend; First Kansas Bank, Great Bend; American State Bank & Trust, Great Bend; Farmers Bank & Trust, Great Bend; Wilson State Bank, Hoisington; Sunflower Bank, Great Bend; and Landmark National Bank, Great Bend. 

Donations were provided by Star Seed, Inc., Sharp Bros. Seed Co., BTI, Kauffman Seeds, Inc., Midland Seed, Just Dance Studio, Walmart, High Call Outfitters, Hoisington Gun Club and Orscheln Farm & Home.