Conservation district celebrates 40th year

Photo of Geoff Parks Frank Fery of Stayton, Ore., queues up at the locally grown produce buffet at the recent Marion Soil and Water Conservation District 40th Annual Meeting in Salem, Ore.

Local agriculture, stewardship highlight groups' anniversary

By GEOFF PARKS

For the Capital Press

In addition to awards honoring two of the county's ag conservation leaders, the star of the Marion County Soil and Water Conservation District's 40th Annual Meeting on Sept. 17 was the food.

Honoring four decades of conservation in the most productive agricultural county in Oregon was as simple as allowing guests, Marion SWCD officers and members and others to dip into and enjoy part of the cornucopia of fresh broccoli, carrots, berries, nuts, honey and other products grown in the county.

"One of our goals was to highlight local agriculture with the dinner," said Jenny Meisel of the SWCD.

Between the healthful, tasty snacking that went on at Salem's Kroc Center, Marion SWCD officials conferred awards on eight county ag producers for their efforts in making the dinner bounty possible.

But two of the awards -- "both (of which) are special for us," said Marion SWCD Manager Jane Keppinger -- stood out. The Cooperator of the Year award, which this year went to Nathan Lamkey of the Fruitland area, east of Salem, and the Spirit of Conservation Award, which went to Michael Mann of Amity, were highlighted in the awards ceremony.

The Lamkey family currently is working on a wildlife habitat incentives program to remove invasive plants and re-establish healthy, native plant populations. They also have been working for the past two years with both the SWCD and with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, completing projects to install culverts for fish passage, remove livestock grazing and implementing intense brush management.

The Spirit of Conservation Award also is near to the hearts of SWCD officials.

Mann was given the award for his work on his voluntary conservation plan and his completion of a landowner assistance program project. The project consisted of planting and maintaining native seedlings on a small stream to improve habitat for wildlife and pollinators, as well as the clearing and controlling of invasive ivy and blackberry on several acres.

Housekeeping items at the meeting included a listing of the district's financial data, which included an ending balance as of fiscal year 2010-11 of $1.79 million.

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