MIAMI COUNTY — In the Dec. 18, 1943, edition of the Troy Daily News, a small announcement is buried among the dozens of World War II headlines of the day — the birth of the Miami Soil and Water Conservation District.
The organization is celebrating its 75th anniversary of providing assistance to local land owners to preserve and protect the soil and water in the Miami Valley. The organization was founded on a national level after the Dust Bowl devastated farmers in the Plains in the 1930s, which caused more than 850 million tons of topsoil to be swept away due to drought and poor farming practices.
The Miami County Soil and Water Conservation District was officially formed on Dec. 16, 1943, following a vote on Dec. 9 to create the district — with 96 percent in favor of the initiative.
Today the office is located at 1330 N. County Road 25-A, in Troy, and employs five people to serve the county with their soil and water issues. Staff, including drainage technician Gavin Alexander and district technician Jennifer Korte, helps provide the public with solutions such as drainage projects and conservation easements. The office also offers rain barrels and county plat books to the public.
The current board of supervisors are: Dan Batdorf, Don Hiegel, Andy Shuman, Diane Yingst and Jeff Shoup.
A LOOK BACK
The Miami Soil and Water Conservation District has scrapbooks of photos and news articles that reflect the organization’s dedication to conservation over the last 75 years.
The organization’s ﬁrst board members were Emmett Brush, Springcreek Twp.; Bert Favorite, Concord Twp.; Dr. Harry Ronicker, Union Twp.; William Thompson, Elizabeth Twp.; and Ernest Weaver, Newton Twp. Favorite was the first chairman.
The office’s first employee was Ralph Harrod and the first newsletter was published in 1952.
The first Miami County conservation plan was developed for the 205-acre farm of Dr. Ronicker, at his request. The plan called for a four-year rotation of corn, grain, and two years of alfalfa-grass, strip cropping, terraces, pasture seeding and tree planting.
A highlight in the organization’s history was the election of Sam Studebaker Sr. as the Ohio Federation of Soil and Water Conservation District president from 1958-1959. Studebaker then went on to become the first Ohioan to serve as the National Association of Conservation District president from 1966-1969.
Studebaker was from Bethel Township and received his bachelor’s degree in agriculture from The Ohio State University and a year of graduate work in education administration at the university. Studebaker was a high school principal and then superintendent of schools until 1932. Studebaker operated a 450-acre dairy farm near Tipp City.
According to Studebaker’s biography, “He was credited with bringing a new sense of unity and common purpose to the district movement during the period when diverse objectives and geographical difference had threatened the National Association of Conservation District.”
Studebaker was once quoted saying, “Conservation is now everybody’s job. It has changed from the former agricultural concept to one involving the whole community.”
The MSWCD has a variety of programs from educational opportunities, scholarships to tree and shrub sales and other activities throughout the year.
Linda Raterman, public relations specialist and educator, assists Miami County teachers as well as other youth groups in spreading the message about natural resource conservation and preservation.
“Education is vital in the area of conservation. We help educate 3,000 to 3,500 students in all of the county schools about what natural resources are and how they play a role in protecting their soil and water, too,” Raterman said.
Raterman said education opportunities align with school curriculum in a variety of areas and she brings many hands-on learning opportunities along with her to local classrooms.
Raterman presents groups with games, books and soil surveys to partner with the lesson plans.
The organization has a variety of models on-hand to help bring lessons to life, including: Enviroscape, Ground Water Flow, Stream Table and a Stream Simulation kit.
For more information, visit www.miamiswcd.org.
A soil conservationist reviews a soil sample with a local farmer in a tobacco field near West Milton in a photo
dated Aug. 5, 1969.
A soil scientist classifies soils in a tomato and corn field in Miami County on Aug. 5, 1969.