“Saying thank you is more than good manners, it is good spirituality,” Alfred Painter once said.

In the spirit of gratitude for Mother Earth, the Madison County Soil and Water Conservation District recently held its ninth annual customer appreciation luncheon at the White Eagle Conference Center in Hamilton. The casual get-together continues to honor the family of conservation stewards who help the district put conservation in action.

“It’s a small gesture of praise for our local family farmers, local contractors, town supervisors, county employees, elected officials, Agri-business companies, engineering support, state and federal conservation partners and funding organizations,” said district manager Steve Lorraine. “At this time of year, we also extend a debt of gratitude to our armed forces personnel and to all the farmers nationally who have had a rough year. We appreciate you.”

The afternoon had the Conservation District Board of Directors saying goodbye to seven-year board member John Salka, who will head to Albany and represent the 121st District as the Republican member-elect for the New York State Assembly.

“Volunteering on the board has given me great perspective on agricultural issues and the needs of rural communities,” said Salka. “I hope to use this experience to positively impact our district.”

Also learning about land stewardship, conservation practices and meeting farmers was Democratic member-elect for New York's 22nd Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, Anthony Brindisi and Sarah F. Bormann, district director for the 22nd Congressional District.

“One of my first priorities is to find a way to serve on the House Agriculture Committee and form a district-wide Ag group that meets quarterly to discuss real issues,” said Brindisi. “I appreciate the Madison County SWCD for the invitation to learn from farmers and see how the results of conservation practices benefit the communities in the many watersheds.”

“In my 15 years as manager, Congressman-elect Brindisi is the only representative who actually showed up to our event. We hope this relationship and commitment continues,” said Lorraine.

During a family style slideshow presentation, Lorraine highlighted a variety of 2018 projects that he and his staff of seven worked on using the New York State Agricultural Environmental Management (AEM) program planning matrix. These plans led to surveying and designing tile drainage, grade stabilization projects, road culvert projects, stream remediation, manure storages, pasture systems, spring developments, milk-house waste systems, heavy use areas, riparian buffers and planting over a 1,000 acres of cover crops locally.

In addition, the crew managed construction projects, planted trees, installed fence on stream buffers, taught grazing management, mentored interns, developed and applied nutrient management plans, took soil samples, delineated watersheds for culvert sizing, secured stream permits and led educational training events and held the popular annual tree within their busy work schedule. The staff also works with the Upper Susquehanna Coalition in formulating the Phase III Watershed Implementation Plan for the Chesapeake Bay TMDL strategy as well as grant writing.

To learn more about the work the Madison County SWCD does for the community, contact the district at 315-824-9849 or visit: madcoswcd.com.