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Leading by example
Banker Awards tribute to conservation efforts
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On Saturday night, the Barton County Soil Conservation District (part of the Natural Conservation Service) held its annual Conservation Awards banquet at Barton Community College.
Now, this banquet isn’t as ritzy as some. There are more blue jeans than little black dresses.
But, those honored weren’t the type to strut down a red carpet. They were more comfortable in a pasture or a tractor cab.
Called the Banker Awards since they and annual district banquet are sponsored by the bankers in the county. In Barton County, agricultural producers and/or owners of rural property are nominated by family, friends or peers.
A committee made up of local and state officials, bankers and others involved in agriculture tour the nominated sites in October and vote on a winner. Sometimes, members of the committee can suggest a deserving candidate.
It is unfortunate that  in our national halls of power, agricultural producers get a bad rap. Regulations limiting this or controlling that are passed to curtail the environmental threats posed by farming.
Thankfully, veteran Kansas Senator Pat Roberts is back at the helm of the Senate Ag Committee. He might return a little bit of common sense to that esteemed body.
Worse yet is that many folks around here don’t understand farming. But one just has to spend a few minutes talking with a farmer, especially those honored by these awards, to really get a glimpse into this challenging, yet crucial industry that propels our local economy.
These producers love their land, some of which has been in their families for over 100 years. They are passionate about the profession, the food they produce and the livestock they raise.
Protecting the soil, the water and the air is important to them. First, their livelihood relies on these things. Second, they feel a bond with the world around them.
Ron Klein with the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Great Bend put it best. “These nominees work hand in hand with the land.”
He is so right.
The 2014 winners are: Tim and Stephanie Maier, windbreak; Greg and Virginia Axman, soil conservation; and Mike and Sandy Demel, rangeland management. 
Thank these farm families for their efforts.
Dale Hogg