Eleanor Yeomans is a Conservation Specialist in the Pierce County, Georgia NRCS office with first hand knowledge of the transformative change that has taken place in the practice of conservation at NRCS over the years. When she started work at NRCS, there were no computers. It was a pencil and paper world where even maps were often drawn by hand. When the office did get a computer, it sat idle for quite awhile until Eleanor was told that “it would be a good idea to turn it on every day in case you need to use it”.
Now, everything is computerized and end products, such as NRCS conservation contracts and plans, appear professionally finished. Other changes involve the disbursement of money through the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP), which in earlier times was all done by the Farm Service Agency.
Eleanor’s position as Conservation Specialist involves assisting in the planning and implementation of soil and water conservation practices through the EQIP program with an emphasis on using Arc Geographical Information System, Toolkit, and other computerized resource tools. She also assists walk-in clients with general conservation related questions, maintains files and inputs data into various reporting systems.
Although Eleanor enjoys interacting with lots of different people and the variety of tasks her position entails, her favorite part of the job is working with maps. Her love of maps goes back to the trips she and her husband have taken. They have traveled extensively across the country and have visited all but four states in the U.S. While her husband drove, Eleanor read the maps and served as his navigator. And Eleanor’s knowledge of farming is first hand, too. She married a farmer and she and her husband had a diversified farming operation consisting of a large dairy farm, 120,000 layer chickens, raising brood sows and heifers, and growing row crops, such as tobacco. Eleanor was responsible for payroll, bookkeeping, feeding chickens, milking cows, and lots of other tasks involved in such a large farming operation. Compared to the intensive labor involved in keeping the farm going, Eleanor says her work with NRCS and the County is a snap!
But today, even without the farm, Eleanor does double duty. On Mondays and Tuesdays, she is an ACES enrollee but on Wednesdays she does the same tasks at the same desk while working for the County. By creatively splitting her time, both NRCS and Pierce County benefit from her knowledge of agriculture and NRCS history, thus staving off a good example of the future “brain drain” predicted for government agencies.