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My Earth Team Success Story—the Start of an NRCS Career


Adria Smith started working with NRCS as a student volunteer. She is now a student trainee soil conservationist.

Adria Smith started working with NRCS as a student volunteer. She is now a student trainee soil conservationist.

I first heard about Earth Team, the volunteer workforce of the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) from Eric Banks, the Kansas State Conservationist. Our families go to the same church, and he spoke with my mother about the Earth Team program, recommending I look into getting involved with it.

Shortly after that, I began an apprenticeship through the Earth Team at the Salina NRCS State Office. The apprentice program teaches students the importance of conserving our natural resources and acquaints them with related career opportunities.

As an apprentice, I volunteered several hours a week on a regular schedule during my spring semester of my senior year in high school. I worked with several employees who let me shadow them in their jobs.

I soon discovered Earth Team was much more than I had expected. Over 16,500 people have accumulated nearly a half-million Earth Team volunteer hours in Kansas since 1985. This is an amazing statistic—one that shows the dedication of many to the Earth Team, and the NRCS, cause.

I would recommend Earth Team to anyone, not just other high school students. It is a great and humbling experience. People volunteer for different reasons: some find it satisfying to help others, some do it in hopes of finding a career path and some want to help the environment.

Since I liked volunteering for NRCS, I applied for a student trainee position, and luckily, NRCS hired me.  During the past two summers, I worked in different NRCS field offices, assisting with projects such as surveying and designing livestock water supply piplines and livestock watering facilities, as well as staking terraces and waterways.

What I like best about being a student trainee soil conservationist, compared with being a volunteer, is that I am committing to make this a permanent career choice. I am also getting experience working outside with farmers on conservation planning and helping them with crop and erosion problems.

I enjoy the work, and I look forward to hopefully being an NRCS soil conservationist in the future. This is a career path I can enjoy and I am grateful for the opportunity to work with NRCS.

And to think it all started with a chance conversation—and signing up as an Earth Team volunteer.

Find out how to become an Earth Team volunteer in your community.

Follow NRCS on Twitter.

Check out other conservation-related stories on the USDA blog.

President Obama issued a Presidential Proclamation deeming this week National Volunteer Week, encouraging every American to observe the week by volunteering in service projects across the country and pledging to make service part of their daily lives.  To get started on a project near you, visit

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