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South Platte NRD Recognizes 2017 District Conservation Award Winners


November 24, 2017


On Nov. 14th the South Platte Natural Resources District (SPNRD), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) Extension hosted an Awards Ceremony for the 2017 Conservation Award Winners. This year four area award winners were recognized, the Conservation Farm Award, Environmental Educator Award, Grassland Management Award, and the Tree Planter/Caretaker Award.

"The winners of these awards make a difference in our District," said Shelly Gerk, information and education coordinator for the district. "Their outstanding efforts set them apart from their peers and their management practices create a sustainable and long lasting environmental benefit."

Gerk said the year was unique, in that all four winners were groups of people and no single individual received an award.

The criteria met for the award winners is not based solely on the cost-share received on their operation, but on their enthusiasm and commitment to creating a better place for everyone. Each year the organizations gather to celebrate the producers' efforts and recognize their hard work. The 2017 District Conservation Award winners include:

Conservation Farm Award Winner – The John R "Butch" Stanley Family and Associated Operations.

For 101 years this operation has been run by members of this family. They have come together and worked as a team to create a farm and a life that supports multiple generations. Their dedication to the "Whole Farm" concept is evident to anyone who spends time with them, and their goal is to leave everything better than they found it. Criteria for this award is based on a "total" farm concept which incorporates conservation and best management practices. This family has shown what can be accomplished when devoted, and their goal of continued environmental impact that benefits their yields and their land has definitely been met.

Tree Planter/Caretaker Award – The Watchorn Family.

Not only are multiple generations involved in this operation, but multiple levels of family members. A shining example of talented people of all ages coming together to share knowledge, skills, and a love of trees can be found with this family. The care and maintenance that has been given to the trees and shrubs during and after the initial planting is evident when one looks at the condition and health of these plantings. The Watchorn family carefully plans each tree plan to benefit their operation and also their environment and land. They plan for the wildlife around them and the needs of the soil they manage. The Watchorn Family sent their youngest generation up as a group to accept this award, and there is nothing more rewarding than watching that expert knowledge passed down the line.

Grassland Management Award – The Mathewson Family.

No stranger to receiving these types of awards, The Mathewson Family has strived for several generations to create sustainable rangeland conditions that will survive even the harshest of droughts. Their continued efforts started years ago, and they are on the fourth generation of grassland managers in the family. Not only do they strive to maintain proper stocking rates, rotations and overall range health, they continually re-evaluate their programs and are constantly updating their methods as times, seasons, and conditions change. An example to us all, this family has created their own type of sustainable plan that has benefited their range and the range around them.

Environmental Educator Award – The Sidney Schools Fourth Grade Teachers (Mrs. Jackson, Mrs. Roach, Mrs. Janssen, Mrs. Koozer, Mrs. Hamling).

The Environmental Educator Award is handled differently than any other District Conservation Award. "Educator" is defined as anyone who teaches others about their environment. The Sidney Schools Fourth Grade Teachers have worked as a team with their school staff and administrators to create a program that encourages young people to understand the world around them. From Agriculture to Environmental Conservation this group of ladies has buckled down and created a large-scale program that lasts an entire school year. They incorporated their teachings into all areas of their classrooms and have even reached out to the community for participation and leadership for their students. They have built a sustainable and growing program that will create environmentally aware citizens and educated consumers. Anyone who works with them can see their hearts are dedicated to their students. The program they have created is one of a kind, and this award is our way of saying Thank You for their hard work and commitment to Environmental Education.

Every year the SPNRD, along with the NRCS and the UNL Extension Office, select District Conservation Award Winners. These individuals and groups within our District are selected based on their continued commitment to conservation stewardship. The District has five possible awards each year, though not all may be filled each year. The awards are The Conservation Farm Award, The Community Environmental Impact Award, The Environmental Educator Award, The Grassland Management Award, and The Tree Planter/Caretaker Award. Anyone can make a nomination for these awards. For more information on the awards or any program offered at the SPNRD Gerk at 308-254-2377 or visit at 551 Parkland Dr, Sidney NE; or visit the website at


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