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Thursday, Apr. 28, 2016

Conservation Farmer of Year named

Friday, February 21, 2003

Featured speaker, Jesse Walker (right) at the Clay County Soil & Water Conservation District Annual Meeting Thursday night with award winners (from left) Jamie Elwell and Sally Liechty, Conservation Teachers Award; Greg Wegner, Service Award and Ivan Hoffman, Conservation Farmer Award.

Jesse Walker, chief meteorologist at NewsChannel 2, was the featured speaker Thursday evening at the 52nd Annual Meeting of the Clay County Soil & Water Conservation District.

During the dinner meeting at the 4-H Fairgrounds, Gerald Runyon was re-appointed as a board member and Dean Hyatt was re-elected as a board member.

Walker talked about major weather events that have happened in past 17 years since he's been a weatherman. One such event was a five-hour span on June 2, 1990, when 37 tornadoes were observed. Walker said that was about two years worth of tornadoes. The coldest temperature he's ever seen was Jan. 19, 1994, when it dropped to 31 degrees below zero.

Walker described winter of the past three decades. He said the 1970s were cold, the '80s snowy and the '90s were warm.

When asked about this winter Walker said, "This winter has been colder than normal with above normal snowfall. And it's not over yet. This will be one of those winters where you think it's never going to end."

Walker was asked how he thought this winter might effect the mushrooms.

"I'm not sure," he answered. "I've heard that snow is good for mushrooms but the thing that worries me is that March may be pretty cold and cold is not good for the mushrooms. We'll just have to wait and see."

Bruce Finkbinder, the Core 4 Project coordinator working under a 319 EPA Grant, showed a film he helped produce that received the Watershed Award. Area farmer Gerry Youngblood and his sons participated in the film, showing how a community, working together, can clean up water, prevent chemical run-off and monitor pesticide applications.

Awards were given for Conservation Teacher, Conservation Farmer and Service Award.

The Conservation Teacher Award went to a pair of Northview High School science teachers, Sally Liechty and Jamie Elwell. Together, they sponsor the Science Club.

Liechty and Elwell are involved in the Riverwatch project. They take students to Birch Creek to monitor the water for pH, phosphate, nitrates, dissolved oxygen and to identify the macroinvertebrates.

The teachers plan Earth Week, work on the ongoing Butterfly Garden at Forest Park and maintain a bag and paper-recycling program at Northview for teachers and students.

The pair are involved with many projects that make an impact on educating students about the importance of conservation of the environment.

Ivan Hoffman was chosen Conservation Farmer of the Year. Ivan and his wife, Angel, live in Perry Township. He began his farming operation as a custom operator, baling large round bales of hay throughout the county, which he still does today.

His operation was expanded when Ivan added a no-till grain drill just as no-till soybean planting was evolving. Ivan added precision farming practice to his operation. He can fertilize areas of a field at various rates as is appropriate based on yield capabilities and current nutrients levels.

The Clay City High School graduate has attended Purdue University's winter courses in agriculture. He is a member of the Perry Township Volunteer Fire Department, attends Cory Community Church of the Nazarene, is a member of the Indiana Farm Bureau and serves on the Clay County Farm Bureau Board of Directors.

The Service Award was presented to Greg Wegner. Wegner started with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and was there five years. He then worked at the NRCS as a soil conservationist to implement federal and state programs.

The local conservationist served Clay County for 15 years before being transferred to the USDA Service Center in Greencastle in 2002. Wegner continues to reside in Clay County with his wife, Sue, and sons, Ben and Logan.

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