Mike Lilly is a highly valued Farm Bill Resource Specialist in Pearl, Mississippi. He enrolled in the ACES Program in August 2010 as a way of continuing to contribute to his love of soil science while remaining semi-retired.
Mike grew up in rural Illinois on a family farm raising swine, and growing corn and soybeans. After obtaining an Associate Degree in Agricultural Resources from Shawnee Community College, Mike began his career in soil science as a soil conservation technician with the “Soil Conservation Service” in Mounds, Illinois. After his exposure to soil science in the field, he became enthusiastic about the agency’s soil program and decided to attend Southern Illinois University where he earned a BS Degree in Plant and Soil Science in 1977. Upon graduation, Mike became a Soil Scientist in Carbondale, Illinois.
In 1992, Mike was promoted to Assistant State Soil Scientist and transferred to Jackson, Mississippi. He advanced to State Soil Scientist in 2001 and retired from NRCS in 2007.
Immediately after retirement, Mike began serving as an Earth Team Volunteer for NRCS, but wanted to contribute more professionally. Feeling as though he still had something to contribute, but not wanting to work full-time, he joined the ACES program which he felt would assist him in accomplishing a new life journey.
As an ACES enrollee, Mike has performed numerous workshops at grade schools, community colleges and state universities, as well as instructed teachers on soil science. One of his main missions with the ACES program is striving to interest young people in soil science. As an example, he privately mentors on a “one-on-one” basis a Peace Corps candidate who will soon graduate from Truman State University. Of his work with schools, Mike says “The ACES program has allowed me to teach students about the importance of soil science in today’s world.” Mike provides much needed training to NRCS field office personnel. He has also assisted in planning and facilitating the Advanced Hydric Soils Training Course for Soil Scientists held in Meridian, MS. In July 2011, Mike worked with the Mississippi Conservation District Employee Association (MCDEA) with a workshop for district clerks and employees. He has also assisted with planning and facilitating the Regional and State Envirothon competitions
Mike works diligently with Area NRCS staffs to investigate pond sites and makes recommendations to landowners as to whether or not the soil is suitable for a pond, and/or suggesting alternative solutions such as heavy use area or watering trough for livestock that would provide adequate water supply. Monitor, Delaney Johnson says Mike’s assistance to the field has been tremendous during the past three years; he has provided valuable information and workload relief.
Mike has also helped perform duties associated with taking measurements of the amount of carbon in the soil as part of the Rapid Carbon Assessment (RCA) study. He has worked in conjunction with this nationwide study being conducted by the Soil Survey Division in Washington, D.C. to see how carbon in the soil affects crop yields and wildlife habitat, and to provide global climate change data.
Mike has memberships in numerous organizations including the Habitat for Humanities, Professional Soil Classifiers Association of Mississippi, Soil Science Society of America, Mississippi Archaeological Association, Central Mississippi Blues Society, and the Mississippi Delta Blues Society of Indianola. Mike loves “the Blues” and attends Blues Festivals whenever possible. He also enjoys traveling all over the country speaking at various school programs to promote education on soils and other earth sciences.
On a recent trip to Claiborne and Newton Counties, Mike found several soil samples needed for a Hinds County SWCD Project. This photo shows him in Claiborne County digging for Natchez soils—Mississippi’s state soil. This particular soil is silty loess which is actually windblown material from the Mississippi River Valley.
Mike highly recommends the ACES program to other retirees who feel they still have something to contribute professionally while remaining partially retired!