Your Personal Invite to the Soil and Water Conservation “Emmys” on July 17 & 18

Today’s guest post is by Clare Lindahl, Executive Director of Conservation Districts of Iowa, a member of the Iowa Learning Farms Steering Committee.


It was July 15th last year and I stood before the National Association of Conservation District’s Executive Board, both nervous and excited. I knew I was prepared for the pitch I was about to deliver to bring the first National Soil and Water Conservation District event to Iowa. I had been working on it for months. I also knew I was about to embark on the biggest event planning endeavor our office of two staff at the time had ever experienced.

Iowa’s 100 Soil and Water Conservation Districts and 500 elected Commissioners are part of a national effort to protect and enhance natural resources. Just like Conservation Districts of Iowa represents and supports Iowa’s Districts and Commissioners, the National Association of Conservation Districts represents America’s 3,000 conservation districts and the 17,000 men and women who serve on their governing boards.

After the pitch, I looked around the room and I knew I had landed it! One Executive Board member stated, “Heck, I might just move to Iowa!”  Full disclosure, he was from Oklahoma. : )

I felt in that moment I knew just a little how Hugh Hammond Bennett felt when he nailed his presentation 82 years ago, passing the conservation bill that established the Soil Conservation Service as a permanent agency in the USDA. The bill authorized them to assist farmers to conserve soil and prevent erosion without a single dissenting vote. I said just a little!

In my pitch to come to Iowa, I touted Iowa Learning Farms and their award-winning, innovative conservation education programming. They have the ability to make conservation education and outreach a science, and to quantify the impacts they have after a farmer leaves one of their field days.

June_Summer-Meeting-Logo2017So on July 17-18, 2017, the National Association of Conservation Districts Summer Forum and Tour will be held in conjunction with the Iowa Soil and Water Conservation District Commissioners 71st Annual Conference.  Hundreds of Conservation District Commissioners and partners from across the state and nation will descend on Prairie Meadows Conference Center in Altoona, Iowa, and participate in tours across the state.

The forum, which will start with lunch and Iowa awards after the Iowa and national business meetings, will include invited speakers Governor Kim Reynolds, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey, and United States Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Purdue. We will follow up with an inspirational speaker and then break into simultaneous panels on public-private approaches to conservation planning and community and agriculture working together for clean water.

That evening, we will have an exhibitor social with hors d’oeuvre preceding our banquet with awards and a live auction with father-son auctioneer team Jeff and Dylan Webber. Leadership from the National Association of Conservation Districts and the Natural Resources Conservation Service will deliver talks as well.

wqThe next morning, after breakfast and an Iowa Natural History Primer, we will divide up into two tours. The water quality tour will feature urban conservation practices in Ankeny, a visit to Iowa’s Land Improvement Contractors Farm to view conservation practices, a water quality monitoring demo, a driving tour of Iowa State University and a visit to Alluvial Brewing Company.

soilThe Soil Health Tour will feature the Badger Creek Lake Watershed Project, a talk on Palmer Amaranth, a drive by a Madison County Covered Bridge, lunch at historic Keller Brick Barn and a presentation from the Dallas County Soil and Water Conservation District and a demonstration of soil health – in town and on the farm.

If this sounds as fun to you as it does to me, consider this your personal invite to the Soil and Water Conservation event of the century – register here.

Clare Lindahl

Top 10 Reasons to check out this year’s Iowa Water Conference

SPECIAL NOTE: Today’s guest blog post was written by Melissa Miller, Program Coordinator with the Iowa Water Center. The annual Iowa Water Conference is just around the corner, and Melissa outlines her Top Ten list of reasons why each of us should consider attending!

On March 23-34 in Ames, we’ll hold the Iowa Water Conference. This is the TENTH year in its current format. What used to be many water-related conferences came together under one umbrella for several reasons – perhaps the most important of those being that we are all responsible for Iowa’s water management, and we must work together to make improvements.


With it being the tenth year, it seemed appropriate to provide the top ten reasons you’ll want to attend this year’s conference, if you haven’t already registered.


10Affordability. The registration fee remains at $150 again this year; $75 for students. This number includes breakfast, snacks, and lunch on both days. (Registration fees go up March 12, so get signed up!)


9Weather. We planned the event three weeks later in 2016 in the hope Mother Nature will be kind to us. We can’t guarantee good weather, but we have better chances this year.


Competition. As in past years, we’ll have a photo contest and student poster contest.


7Exhibitors. We’ve already secured a long list of commercial and non-profit/educational groups that will have tables in the lobby, including our ILF/Water Rocks! friends. If you want to exhibit, get your form in by March 11!


6Networking. The Water Conference is cross-cutting and you’ll be amazed by all the people you meet during breaks and the evening reception (read on).


5Evening reception. Back by popular demand is the evening networking reception. From 5-7 p.m. on Wednesday night, we’ll provide heavy hors d’oeurves and a cash bar right before heading into the adjacent community event (read on).


4Art of Water 2016. This FREE community event will feature a gallery viewing of Ames High School Bluestem Institute water quality photographic prints and a presentation of Body of Water, a production that uses dance, music, and video to tell the story of an Iowa watershed. For more info, check out the event website.




3The optional workshop this year (an additional $50 fee) is a different kind of topic than we typically offer –The Psychology of Sustainable Behavior – a skill-building workshop to support voluntary behavior change.


2More breakout sessions. This year you’ll find presentations on water quality, water quantity, nutrient management, the soil/water connection, the next generation of water professionals, strategies for social engagement, green infrastructure: benefits and maintenance, green infrastructure: function, current technology, and current research. The committee worked especially hard this year to strategically schedule presentations so you wouldn’t have to face tough decisions, but with the high quality of the talks, there was only so much we could do. (Don’t worry, the entire conference is being recorded!)


1Plenary presentations. We kick the conference off with a bang -“Water Quality in Iowa: What does the public think?” will be presented by Mary Losch with the Department of Psychology and Center for Social and Behavioral Research at the University of Northern Iowa. Other plenary topics include zero stormwater runoff discharge, watershed planning for treatment plant nutrient offsets, the California water odyssey, a legislative look at achieving environmental quality, and using psychology to engage people to preserve water resources.


We hope we’ve piqued your interest (and potentially managed to answer every question you may have had) about the Iowa Water Conference. Follow along on Twitter using #iawaterconf16 and be sure you don’t miss the March 11 registration deadline!

Melissa Miller


Spotlight on Soil Health

The 2016 Lenox Soil Health Conference is just around the corner!  This year’s event is scheduled for Tuesday, February 23, with the theme of “Systems Thinking for Agriculture.” Sponsored by the Taylor County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD), in partnership with SARE, this annual event promises to be an engaging dialogue about our agricultural cropping systems here in Iowa, including perspectives from both farmers and scientists over the course of the day.

The conference will be happening at the Lenox Community Center (210 East Dallas Street, Lenox, IA), just south of the Lenox school complex. Registration begins at 9:00am on Tuesday morning, with the program running from 9:30am – 2:30pm.  A complimentary lunch is provided.  RSVPs are appreciated in advance to Carla Ackley at 712.523.2118 (x3).

Soil health flyer 2016

Check out the flyer for the full program agenda for the day. Hope to see you there!

Ann Staudt

Conservation + Agriculture Learning Opportunities

I’ve heard many of our farmer-partners with Iowa Learning Farms talk about how practicing conservation is always a learning process, describing themselves as lifelong learners. That’s one of the reasons we host field days – an opportunity for farmers and landowners to learn from one another, as well as from scientists and researchers, about integrating conservation practices into their farming operations. We are currently finalizing details of our Iowa Learning Farms late fall field days/workshops – stay tuned for more field day information coming soon!

Beyond field days, another great learning opportunity can be found in conferences. There are quite a number of exciting conference opportunities coming up over the next few months…

Women, Food and Agriculture Network Annual Conference: Women Protecting Pollinators, Protecting Food
Nov. 6-7
Radisson Quad City Plaza/Davenport

Sustaining Our Iowa Land (SOIL): The Past, Present, and Future of Iowa’s Soil and Water Conservation Policy
Nov. 19-20
Drake University/Olmsted Center

Iowa/Minnesota Drainage Research Forum
(Pre-registration is required – not available the day of!)
Nov. 23
Cabela’s/Owatonna, MN

Integrated Crop Management Conference
Dec. 2-3
Iowa State University/Scheman Building

Ann Staudt