Looking for the “BIG TREES” of St. Joseph County

The St. Joseph County Parks are now accepting nominations for The Big Trees of St. Joseph County, a list of the largest of each of our native tree species. The response to this program has been outstanding in past years, but the program is continually seeking new nominations. Categories which have no current champion include American Beech, Shagbark Hickory and Sassafras. To nominate a tree, please pick up a nomination form at any of the St. Joseph County Parks, Rum Village Nature Center, St. Joseph County Soil and Water Conservation District Office or Purdue Extension of St. Joseph County. The deadline to submit nominations is September 1, 2019.


Big Trees program coordinator, Amal Farrough, is looking forward to reviewing this year’s nominations. “It’s always fun to see a champion big tree win several years in a row, but new, even larger champions, are wonderful to see too!” Area naturalists will verify the nominations in the fall.


The St. Joseph County Parks organize the Big Trees of St. Joseph County in a cooperative effort with Rum Village Nature Center, St. Joseph County Soil and Water Conservation District, Purdue Extension of St. Joseph County, and the University of Notre Dame’s Department of Biological Sciences.


For a current list of champions or to obtain a nomination form, which includes a list of eligible species, visit the county park’s website at www.sjcparks.org.

St Joseph County (IN) Announces

Youth Leadership Program

To support our youth by helping them to develop the skills and attitudes they need to take part in government now and in the future.

To improve St. Joseph County for both current and future generations by connecting the local youth and the local government.

1. Understand local government
2. Build relationships
3. Explore job options through career and leadership training

Applications will be accepted by the Commissioners’ office now through September 7, 2018.   An application can be printed out and given to a young adult you feel might benefit from the program.  Applications can also be submitted online at sjcindiana.com/ylp


  • October 10, 2018 6 pm to 8 pm Overview of Local Govt., Council, Commissioners

  • November 14, 2018 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm Parks, Health, Soil & Water, Purdue Extension

  • December 12, 2018 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm Sheriff and Prosecutor

  • January 9, 2019 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm Clerk, Elections, Voter Registration

  • February 13, 2019 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm Assessor, Auditor, Treasurer, Recorder

  • March 13, 2019 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm Courts, JJC, CASA, Archives

  • April 10, 2019 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm Economic Development, Public Works, Area Plan

  • May 8, 2019 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm Graduation


Topics for each meeting are subject to change. Most meetings will occur on the 7th floor of the County-City Building, in the Commissioners’ Conference Room. Some meetings will take place at other County-owned facilities.

Participants would be required to participate in at least two community service projects that benefit the citizens of St. Joseph County and teach the importance of civic engagement. A list of approved projects will be handed out at the first meeting in October. These projects will include:

  • Courts/Voter Registration – Assist in Elections

  • Circuit Court – Court Experience

  • Sherriff – Dare Haunted Hayride, Shop with a Cop, Explorer Post, Dare night at Skyzone

  • Archives – Look up family history

  • Portage Manor - Christmas Gift Program

  • Parks/Soil and Water/ Purdue Extension- Rain Garden Installation, Invasive Specie Removal, River Clean Up

  • Health/Parks – Passport to Play

  • Parks – Sugar Camp Days

  • CASA – Christmas Toy Drive

  • Create your own service opportunity


Participants would be required to attend at least five out of the seven scheduled meetings in addition to participating in at least two service projects and attending one Commissioner meeting and one Council meeting.

Hoosier Chapter of Soil and Water Conservation Society

Announces 2018 Scholarship Application

The scholarship program is intended to encourage qualified students to increase their interest in conservation, to obtain technical competence in some area of conservation, and to pursue a career in this area of endeavor.  Application PDF is to the left<---- or you can find it on their website (see below).

An applicant for the scholarship must:

  1. Have successfully completed at least two years of study in an Indiana accredited college by August, 2018.

  2. Have a minimum cumulative grade point average of 2.5 (on 4.0 scale).

  3. Be an undergraduate enrolled in an agricultural or natural resource conservation related curriculum.

  4. Be working toward his/her first B.S. degree.


Scholarship applicants will be enrolled in such major courses of study as agronomy, biology, soil science, wildlife management, forestry, geography, and environmental management. Other courses of study related to conservation may also qualify. Previous recipients are not eligible for a second Hoosier Chapter scholarship.

One scholarships of $1000 will be awarded. Recognition of scholarship recipient and presentation of award will be made at the annual meeting of the Chapter held in November.


Applications for the scholarship may be emailed or sent by regular mail, and must be received by the scholarship selection committee chairman, or postmarked by November 1, 2018.


For more information please see the Hoosier Chapter's website at: http://www.hoosierchapterswcs.org/

Survey shows Indiana remains a top state for cover crops

INDIANAPOLIS (April 25, 2018) – Indiana farmers planted 970,000 acres of cover crops in 2017, according to a recent survey. Cover crops are now the third-most planted crop in the state, next to corn and soybeans.

“With the late harvest and heavy rains farmers experienced last fall, seeing close to one million acres of cover crops growing is no small accomplishment and worth celebrating,” said Jill Reinhart, acting state conservationist for Indiana’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). “This year’s data shows that Indiana once again sets the bar, nationally, when it comes to incorporating conservation on the farm.”

According to NRCS, cover cropping has many benefits including increased organic matter, improved soil biology, as well as better water infiltration and water-holding capacity. This practice also prevents nutrients and sediment from running off the farm, keeping them out of nearby waterbodies and streams.


As a result of the cover crops planted last fall, more than 2.9 million pounds of nitrogen, 1.4 million pounds of phosphorus and 1.2 million tons of sediment were prevented from entering Indiana’s waterways. That’s enough sediment to fill 12,000 train cars stretching 113 miles long, the survey claims.


“Farmers continue to recognize the importance and are finding value in planting cover crops,” said Bruce Kettler, director of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture (ISDA). “Keeping more nutrients on the land, not only improves soil health and water quality, but also a farmer’s bottom line.”


Dan Sutton, of Sutton Farms in Lowell, Ind., first planted cover crops in 2008 and started seeing results the following year.


“We found in 2009 a pretty good yield increase on those cover cropped acres,” Sutton said. “That turned a light bulb on, and we said, ‘Hey, let’s look into this more and see what we can do with it.’”


For the past several years, Sutton has tried to plant cover crops on 100 percent of his 1,300 acre farm. Although he’s encountered challenges along the way, he believes that the benefits to his soil and the environment outweigh the risks.


In addition to cover crops, the survey also measures trends related to crop residue, which is the organic material left in the field after harvest. Crop residue further reduces sediment and nutrient runoff by protecting the soil from fall, winter and spring rain events. A no-till system leaves the most residue.


The survey shows that Indiana farmers left their crop residues undisturbed on: 67 percent of soybean acres, 63 percent of corn acres, 46 percent of small grain acres and 20 percent of specialty crop acres.


The cover crop transect survey is a collaborative effort between NRCS, ISDA, Indiana’s 92 Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Earth Team volunteers and other members of the Indiana Conservation Partnership, who team up to conduct a visual assessment of cropland county by county. The goal of the survey is to help document a more complete story of Indiana's conservation efforts.


To learn more about the survey, visit www.in.gov/isda/2383.htm, or to find transect data for your county, visit your local Soil and Water Conservation District office at www.in.gov/isda/2370.htm.

Assistance Available to Agricultural Producers through the

Conservation Stewardship Program

Indianapolis, January 18, 2018 – Agricultural producers wanting to enhance current conservation efforts are encouraged to apply for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP).


Through CSP, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) helps private landowners build their business while implementing conservation practices that help ensure the sustainability of their entire operation. NRCS plans to enroll up to 10 million acres in CSP in 2018.


While applications for CSP are accepted year-round, applications must be received by March 2, 2018 to be considered for this funding period.


Through CSP, agricultural producers and forest landowners earn payments for actively managing, maintaining, and expanding conservation activities like cover crops, ecologically-based pest management, forest stand improvement, and pollinator and beneficial insect habitat – all while maintaining active agriculture production on their land. CSP also encourages the adoption of cutting-edge technologies and new management techniques such as precision agriculture applications, on-site carbon storage and planting for high carbon sequestration rate, and new soil amendments to improve water quality.


Some of these benefits of CSP include:

  • Improved cattle gains per acre;

  • Increased crop yields;

  • Decreased inputs;

  • Wildlife population improvements; and

  • Better resilience to weather extremes

NRCS recently made several updates to the program to help producers better evaluate their conservation options and the benefits to their operations and natural resources. New methods and software for evaluating applications help producers see up front why they are or are not meeting stewardship thresholds, and allow them to pick practices and enhancements that work for their conservation objectives. These tools also enable producers to see potential payment scenarios for conservation early in the process.


Producers interested in CSP are recommended to contact Debbie Knepp at 574-936-2024 Ext. 4. 

NRCS and Invasive Plant Groups Sign Agreement to Work Together


September 20, 2017.  As the problem with invasive plants has risen sharply globally, two entities in Indiana have joined forces to stem the rise of these threats to our economy and environment.  The Southern Indiana Cooperative Invasive Management (SICIM) group and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) have entered into a contribution agreement for the purpose of developing local grass-root organizations called Cooperative Invasive Species Management Areas (CISMAs) throughout Indiana.


Both SICIM and the NRCS have been working for many years to combat invasive plants and raise public awareness of the devastation being caused by these non-native pests, and both have come to the realization that to make headway, the problem needs to be addressed at the local level by local people using local resources.


Troy Hinkle is a board member of SICIM which is a CISMA that spans 35 counties across southern Indiana. There are currently four regional CISMAs in Indiana. All of these CISMAs are operated strictly with volunteers. Hinkle explains SICIM is the oldest and largest of the existing regional CISMAs and will take the lead state-wide.  He said, “Under the five-year contribution agreement, NRCS will provide partial funding for SICIM to hire staff who will work with SWCDs and other conservation organizations to develop or enhance CISMAs that cover one or two counties.” 

Hinkle envisions SICIM helping these new CISMAs get organized and find the human and financial resources needed to begin effectively combating invasive plants in their communities.


SICIM staff and volunteers will also provide free technical assistance to landowners who want to control invasive plants. Landowners can have their properties surveyed to determine whether non-native plants have invaded their property, and the CISMAs will write management plans for landowners who want to control invasive pests.


Jane Hardisty, State Conservationist with the NRCS is confident that this agreement will bring a needed emphasis to the fight against invasive plants in Indiana.  She noted NRCS has put $917,400 into the 5-year agreement. The SICIM group has agreed to raise an equal amount through grants, donations, and contributions from other conservation organizations. Together these $1,834,800 in funds, and the volunteers brought together to work on the invasive problem will be a formidable force which she believes will make a tremendous difference in bringing back the natives and restoring natural habitat in Indiana.


For more information on this agreement contact SICIM at http://www.sicim.info/ or call 812-653-5563.

St. Joseph County Soil & Water Conservation District Plymouth Service Center 2903 Gary Drive, Plymouth, IN 46563 Phone: 574-936-2024 Ext. 4 Fax: 855-496-7861. Please direct comments or concerns to info@stjosephswcd.org or call 574-936-2024 Ext 4.

© 6 March 2013 ~ St. Joseph County SWCD The St. Joseph County SWCD and USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. Refer to our Civil Rights Statement page for details.

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