The USDA-NRCS – Natural Resource Conservation Service – is an agency committed to “helping people help the land”—their mission is to provide resources to farmers and landowners to aid them with conservation. Ensuring productive lands are in harmony with a healthy environment is their priority, and NOWCC’s ACES – Agriculture Conservation Experienced Services – Program assists them with that mission.
ACES-NRCS Enrollee Dan Switzner is a tribute to our program by providing high-quality assistance to the St. Joseph, MO Area Office of NRCS. Dan’s job as a Conservation Planning Specialist consists of assisting the District Conservationist in the Kingston Field Office. On a routine day Dan will assist a landowner with planning pasture and wildlife seedings; promote and plan grazing systems and soil health farming; conduct status review of Farm Bill contracts and assist landowners with planning management of fields; do field checks of completed conservation practices such as seedings, cover crops, no-till and prescribed grazing; process highly erodible land determinations; in addition to anything else the Field Office might need help with.
Before joining the ACES Program Dan shared with us that he was a District Conservationist in Northeast and Northwest Missouri for 33 years. He is a great example of how our program has “discovered the power of experience” and is continuing to contribute to the welfare of agriculture. Dan mentioned a former ACES Enrollee that had worked for him for about four years – David Howard – and since Dan was familiar with the program, he decided to join us in 2013 after he retired from federal service. When we asked what Dan enjoyed most about the ACES Program he responded “Being able to just help landowners and the great staff at the Caldwell County Field Office with conservation planning and application without being responsible for administrative duties.” His only challenge about his position that he mentioned was that the technology changes are difficult especially with him working part-time. Here at NOWCC we definitely hear that quite often with technology moving at such a fast pace it’s hard for anyone to keep up with!!
Dave Johnson, District Conservationist says “The most beneficial part of the ACES program is being able to draw upon the experience of individuals like Dan. Transitioning from an NRCS employee to an ACES employee requires little if any training. Dan had an immediate positive impact providing assistance to the Kingston Field Office”.
Dan has lots of outside interests that he enjoys when not working at NRCS. Dan and his wife – Janet – own a “farmette” (14 acres) where they rotationally graze a few grass-fed / grass-finished steers each year. They also have a no-till garden, one acre of wildflowers, honeybees, seven acres of timber-stand improvement and rotationally graze a few chickens for eggs. It appears that his experience as a conservationist has carried over into his personal life as well! His hobbies include fishing, bowhunting, travel, and he is also an associate pastor of Cornerstone bible Church. Dan states “We’re anything but bored.”
NOWCC values the contributions that our wonderful enrollees like Dan make to our ACES Program, and for the contributions that make our world a much better place!