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National Volunteer Week: Arkansas Student Volunteer Finds Career, Wins Award

Amanda Carrell holds a deep tillage radish, which is used as a conservation cover crop. The radishes help break up soil compaction and increases water infiltration. (NRCS photo)

Amanda Carrell holds a deep tillage radish, which is used as a conservation cover crop. The radishes help break up soil compaction and increases water infiltration. (NRCS photo)

Amanda Carrell’s two passions in life are volunteering and agriculture.

Luckily, as a student in a soil and water conservation course at Arkansas State University, Carrell was introduced to the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Earth Team program, which allowed her to combine the two.

Earth Team is the volunteer workforce for NRCS, and Carrell has been working through the program since last year. For her service, Carrell won the 2012 Earth Team volunteer award for Arkansas and in 2013 was awarded the National Volunteer Award.

Carrell started out by volunteering eight to nine hours a week at the Jonesboro, Ark., Field and Area Service Centers. And that’s in addition to juggling a 21-hour class schedule with a 30-hour job each week!

“It was worth it,” said Carrell about volunteering despite her busy schedule. “One of the greatest experiences I got out of it was how to transition from [being] a student to a professional.”

Under the guidance of district conservationist Kevin Cochran, Carrell supported the office by reviewing participant eligibility requirements, calculating cost estimations and completing quality assurance checks on each application.

She also worked with many different technical employees to put conservation on the ground.

Carrell assisted civil engineers with the survey and design of a 300-acre irrigation reservoir, worked with soil scientists to establish wetland boundaries and helped soil conservationists secure permits required for livestock stream bank crossings.

“Being an agronomy student, you only study what is good for that producer on that farm for that season,” says Carrell, “and not necessarily what will be best for the land and future generations.”

In contrast, she recalls her experience last summer helping NRCS with a 700-acre tree planting project on the banks of the Black River to restore flood-damaged crop fields.

“Just being out there on the river, planting trees, seeing how flooding had impacted the land, and then seeing how it was transformed by farmers truly concerned about their community—and not just their farm—was eye-opening,” Carrell said.

“That stewardship and seeing people really do care about the land was inspiring,” continues Carrell, who is now pursuing a master’s degree in public administration at Arkansas State University.

“Volunteering gave me the experience I needed to get where I am now,” she adds.

Currently a full-time soil conservationist for NRCS, Carrell uses the skills gained during her time as an Earth Team volunteer to pursue her two great passions for many years to come.

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.

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