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Recent Graduate Gains Real-world Experience as Volunteer, Receives Awards

Earth Team Volunteer Kelsey Bulman assisting the Caledonia, Minn. field office with surveying a pollution abatement project for a waste management system. (NRCS photo/ Gary Larson)

Earth Team Volunteer Kelsey Bulman assisting the Caledonia, Minn. field office with surveying a pollution abatement project for a waste management system. (NRCS photo/ Gary Larson)

Most college juniors look forward to summer break as a time to relax without any responsibilities.

Not Kelsey Bulman.

In the summer of 2011, she began volunteering with the Earth Team of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. For her efforts, Bulman won Minnesota’s Earth Team Award in 2012 and was honored with a 2013 National Earth Team Volunteer Award.

Last summer Kelsey, who had just graduated, worked every day to gain experience and build her knowledge of conservation management, ultimately logging 414 hours.

“It felt like being a kid again, going to the farm with Dad, watching as NRCS helped put conservation on our farms,” she says. “Volunteering for Earth Team was a natural fit for me.”

As a volunteer, Bulman assisted the Caledonia, Minn., field office staff with the planning and application of conservation practices.

“Kelsey helped with so many different projects,” says district conservationist Gary Larson.

With a degree in conservation management, Bulman was able to assist with both the administrative and technical sides of conservation planning, helping the agency while building her skills.

She worked with landowners to get signatures on design plans, helped more than 20 Conservation Reserve Program participants with re-enrollment and collected surveys for conservation practice cost estimates that will help determine future cost-share rates.

“That experience is invaluable,” says Larson. “Our office really appreciated having her help.”

“I would love to work as an employee for NRCS one day,” says Bulman. “This opportunity has allowed me to see each position in NRCS and the ones that interest me the most.”

She goes on, “I was lucky enough that my Dad’s pond project with NRCS had already been approved, so I got to see that from start to finish. As a kid, I didn’t know how complex conservation practices were, for the landowner or NRCS.”

About her Earth Team volunteer experience, she summarizes, “I enjoyed helping and being on the land, and I plan to be back again this year.”

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

 

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