Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack talks to winners of the 1st International Soil Judging Contest during their visit to USDA on Aug. 18. American college students took the top two places in the first ever international competition.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack hosted the world’s eight best soil judges last week after they earned the top spots at the 1st International Soil Judging Contest in Jeju, South Korea, in June. The Natural Resources Conservation Service Soil Science Division was actively involved in organizing the event and mentoring the winners. The first and second place teams, both from the U.S., along with their coaches, participated in a roundtable discussion with Secretary Vilsack and NRCS Chief Jason Weller to talk about soil judging, the importance of soil health, and careers in soil science. In addition, NRCS’ Landscape Architect, Bob Snieckus, led the students and coaches on a tour of USDA’s green projects, including the rooftop garden and The People’s Garden.
It was the first international soil judging contest, but soil judging in the United States dates back to at least 1960. The events involve the description, classification and interpretation of soil, with the main purpose of helping students recognize important soil and landscape properties and to consider these characteristics when deciding how to use soils. A contest involves “judgers,” or students interested in soil science, entering a soil pit to examine the profile. The judgers then determine where the different horizons are and describe each one, looking at factors such as soil type, color, depth, consistency, shape, structure and other features. The soil is classified, and site and soil interpretations are performed. Read more »
By Suzanne Pender, NRCS
On a tour of Gully Branch Tree Farm, in Bleckley, Georgia, NRCS leaders and partners witnessed first-hand the benefits of the new Forestry Incentives Initiative of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Through conservation activities including woodland management, prescribed burning, cultivation of native plants, and pond management, Earl and Wanda Barr have created habitat for diverse wildlife species on their land.
The Barrs have been extensively recognized for their work and won the 2010 Georgia Governor’s Agriculture Stewardship Award. As foresters and committed conservationists, the Barrs have provided educational programs at their farm for over 7,000 students throughout the years, using the forest as a classroom.
NRCS Regional Assistant Chief Leonard Jordan, NRCS State Conservationist James E. Tillman, Sr. and partners from the local Soil and Water Conservation District, the Georgia Forestry Commission, the Wild Turkey Federation, and others toured the farm and saw conservation in action. Red cockaded woodpeckers followed our wagon in the early morning mist, as we viewed native plants as groundcover, a future silvopasture site, nesting habitat and wetland area.
At one moment in the middle of the forest, we all closed our eyes to fully appreciate the symphony of diverse bird songs. Their song of conservation was brought to life in one of the largest forestry states in the country. Forests are home to 900 species of wildlife and 3,600 species of plants filter water and air and provide thousands of products.
Foresters and Conservationists Earl and Wanda Barr take NRCS and conservation partners on a tour of Gully Branch Tree Farm, Georgia.
By Mary Ann McQuinn, Georgia NRCS
NRCS joined the Ohoopee Conservation District and the Pine Country Resource Conservation and Development Council (RC&D) to celebrate and honor Mr. Jim L. Gillis, Jr., — at 93, the longest serving conservation district board member in the Nation. NRCS Regional Assistant Chief Leonard Jordan presented Mr. Gillis with a unique art glass recognizing his 70 years of conservation leadership.
Mr. Gillis was a founding member of the Ohoopee River Soil and Water Conservation District and remains its Chairman to this day. He was also an inaugural member of the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) Hall of Fame. Mr. Gillis witnessed the early days of NRCS, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year.
While relaxing in a rocking chair on the back porch of a pond house, and inside by the fireplace, he shared knowledge from his 70-year career and insights on founder and conservation legend Hugh Hammond Bennett. He reminisced about the conservation challenges and solutions from the Great Depression to today, and shared his thoughts about future challenges such as energy production and water conservation. Donnie Smith, Director of the Center for Agriculture Innovation, personally delivered a proclamation from the Governor designating Conservation Day in Georgia.
Mr. Gillis manages over 12,000 acres of timberland, and is well respected throughout the Southeast for his timber management program. It was indeed our honor to thank this conservation legend for all that he’s done for the natural resources of Georgia.
NRCS Regional Assistant Chief Leonard Jordan (left) learns from 70 years of conservation experience of Jim. L. Gillis, Jr. (right)
Jim. L. Gillis relaxing in a rocking chair.