John Benscoter, PA ACES Enrollee

John Benscoter, PA ACES Enrollee

When Susquehanna County, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) District Conservationist, Ain Welmon had an opening in his office in late 2012 he knew just the type of person he needed. He did not have much time to train anyone; he needed someone who could hit the ground running. Enter John Benscoter who had recently retired from 20 years as a Chesapeake Bay Technician with the Susquehanna Conservation District. Ain had worked with John for three years on several different USDA NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) projects, farm field days and at conservation district meetings and thought he would be a great candidate for an ACES position.

John had a 40 cow dairy farm before starting with the Susquehanna Conservation District in 1992. After about 10 years of working for the Conservation District and running the dairy farm John decided that he could no longer do both so the dairy herd was sold. After a three year interlude John started up a beef herd which he has continually improved the genetic and beef quality of the herd. Ain knew that John was busy with the 115 acre beef farm but when a colleague mentioned to Ain that John still wanted to work in the conservation field but was really looking to work on designing projects that would help farmers implement better conservation management practices, he decided to make a call and encouraged John to apply for the ACES program. “He was interested, and very qualified”! “Working part time through the ACES Program was a good way to transition into retirement – the timing was perfect,” John said. “When Ain told me that I could work as little as one day and as many as 5 days per week, I decided to apply after a brief 3 day retirement.”

John graduated with an Associate Degree in “Building Construction Technology” where he gained knowledge in “Strength and Material”, “Construction Management” and “Architectural Drafting”. His specialty is Agricultural-Related Soil and Nutrient Reduction practices. He helps to provide fresh drinking water to farm animals through Spring Developments. He is gifted with the ability to “Water-Witch”, which he does 2-3 days a week. He uses this unique ability to locate underground springs, water flow patterns, or leading ponds.

At first the job consisted of working one or two days a week, mostly with participants that had existing EQIP construction projects. John continued to expand his role and his working days so that most weeks he works 4 days per week. He meets with landowners to provide technical assistance in developing watering systems for dairy and beef herds, manure storage facilities and Heavy Use Area Protection Areas (improved barnyards). He is involved with many EQIP Livestock Contracts and the designing of the projects under an USDA NRCS Engineer’s watchful eye. John has a feel for what the various farmers will need, what they can handle and how to talk to them. Ain Welmon notes “Our office would not be able to do ½ of the work that is currently getting done with livestock if it were not for John’s desire and dedication.”

John enjoys his work as an ACES enrollee and intends to stay with it as long as he can. It’s important to him that the ACES program provides great work flexibility, allowing for his personal life and farming operation. Dairy Farming from 1974 to 1999 and Beef Farming from 1999 to present has allowed him to gain Agricultural knowledge. He considers that one of his strongest points and his passion. In his free time, he is still a full time beef and crop farmer. “I will farm till I die.” he says.

He always looks forward to his November bear hunts in Ne. Pennsylvania and says “once I actually get a bear I am going to try and go moose hunting in Maine.”