Friday morning, while most of the offices at the USDA building at the corner of 10th Street and Patton Road were locked up due to the federal shutdown, the new director of the Barton County Conservation District, Sara Martinz, was hard at work.
Martinz grew up in the county but moved to California when she was 12, and finished school in a suburb of Los Angeles. Later, she and her family returned to Barton County so her three daughters could be raised in a small town and attend a private Christian school. Today, she lives at the farm that has been in her family for nearly 120 years, where they raise chickens and have a large garden.
In recent years, Martinz returned to college as a non-traditional student and earned a degree in agricultural business management.
After school, she served as a temporary employee at the Farm Service Agency here, but soon realized she had a heart for conservation. In April, she began a contract position with the NRCS, and later applied for her current position.
Shortly after becoming director, Martinz promised many changes at the organization when she was introduced to the Barton County Commission in December. First on the list, the upcoming meeting annual meeting and 2019 Bankers Awards promises to be fresh and new.
With many annual board meetings being held in January, the Thursday, Feb. 21, date was an easy choice, she said. This year’s venue, the Hoisington Knights of Columbus Hall, allows for a cocktail hour prior to the meeting and a whole hog roast provided by Boot Style BBQ of Great Bend. Entertainment will be provided by the Hoisington High School Forensics Club and Martinz is planning a raffle and door prizes to be given away throughout the evening.
“We wanted to find a way to breathe some new life into the annual banquet,” she said. “We want this to be an event where people can socialize and that they look forward to attending.”
Martinz also looks forward to more involvement with the schools county-wide.
“We have many tools to help inform kids what conservation is,” she said. “It’s so important that they understand conservation is preservation, protection and reservation of natural resources. Planned management, what we do here, prevents exploitation, destruction and neglect of water, land and wildlife.”
Tools she plans to use include the riparian trailer, the Earth balloon, a watershed demonstration and the soil tunnel trailer. Working closely with educators at the Kansas Wetlands Education Center are activities she hopes to take on in the next year.
Since taking on her new duties, Martinz is also taking steps to keep the Barton County Conservation District Facebook page updated regularly, and plans to meet with commissioners on a quarterly basis to keep them updated on what is happening in the district.
With a new growing season on the horizon, Martinz will also be promoting more of the conservation-related retail items available to the public at the district office, including drip irrigation systems and tool rentals. A demonstration tunnel is on her wish list, where those interested in high-tunnel or low-tunnel growing can get a look at how a system can work for them.
“I’m still learning all the ways to make this position my own,” she said. “There’s a lot of possibilities.”