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Our History


Thursday April 9, 1959 the St. Joseph County Soil & Water Conservation District was organized as a governmental subdivision of the state of Indiana by John R Walsh, Secretary of State of the State of Indiana.

1960s farmers meeting

Our services and programs aim to meet the unique resource needs of St. Joseph County, and include improving our soil and water resources, promoting and expanding wildlife and woodland areas, and continuing to provide innovative and quality educational programs to the community. We need to keep working together to find mutually satisfactory solutions to some of the problems our natural resources are facing today.

Why we were created.

On April 27, 1935, a massive dust storm was making its way from the Great Plains towards the east coast.  These “black blizzards” had become a common symbol of the Dust Bowl, brought on by decades of unsustainable farming practices that left the soils dry and exposed to the elements. The bill passed without a single dissenting vote and the Soil Conservation Service was established in the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


The early agency (SCS) continued to promote soil conservation through demonstration projects as trained soil conservationists worked directly with farmers. 

The districts focused first on promoting soil conservation. But additional federal and state legislation continually altered and expanded their role.

What Are SWCDs? (source: IASWCD)

SWCDs, or Districts, are local units of government that manage and direct natural resource management programs at the local level. Indiana has 92 Districts – one for each county. They work closely with other forms of local, regional, and state government, private nonprofits, and educational institutions to provide a high level of conservation service to private landowners. They work to promote the wise use, development, and conservation of our state’s soil, water, and related resources in ways that are relevant to their unique localities.


Ninety-six percent of Indiana’s land is privately owned. Land use varies from agriculture, productive forests, bodies of water, and urban or industrial use. Regardless of ownership, all lands are interconnected. Responsible and wise management of these private lands is key to Hoosiers’ quality of life.


  • Indiana’s 92 SWCDs fund and provide leadership for IASWCD, their state association. Incorporated as a 501(c)3 in 1968, the IASWCD operates from Indianapolis. It provides legislative leadership, and fundraising, development, and training opportunities to its districts.

  • Districts in each county are led by a 5-member board of supervisors, 3 elected and 2 appointed positions. SWCDs determine and address natural resource needs in their counties. In this way, they work closely with local landowners and residents. You can get involved with your local District as a Supervisor, Associate Supervisor, or volunteer.

  • They receive funding from a variety of sources, primarily Clean Water Indiana. You can view the amount and sources of conservation funding in each Indiana county.

HughHammond Bennett
“If we are bold in our thinking, courageous in accepting new ideas, and willing to work with instead of against our land, we shall find in conservation farming an avenue to the greatest food production the world has ever known…”
Hugh Hammond Bennett

CLICK HERE to view our 2019 Annual Report.  Click Here to view our 2018-2022 Business Plan.


Check out our newsletters, and Board Meeting Minutes.

A look at the life and impact of the Father of Soil Conservation, Hugh Hammond Bennett, who helped move American agriculture out of the Dust Bowl era.  (Video by USDA)

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