On Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, we headed down to Prairie Meadows in Altoona for the 2015 Iowa Soil and Water Conservation District Commissioners 69th Annual Conference. The Iowa Water Center has exhibited at the last three conferences, and we must say, it gets better every year. Clare Lindahl and her staff at Conservation Districts of Iowa work incredibly hard to put together a fun, informative conference with some big names in the business – the luncheon speaker on Tuesday was Kirk Hanlin, Assistant Chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and on Wednesday, Iowa’s own Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey.
Our limited budget doesn’t allow us to exhibit at a lot of conferences each year, but we make sure to include this conference at the top of our list. We always see good friends, like Jamie Benning, who masterfully connects people and watersheds to Extension programming as the Water Quality Program Manager for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, and Jackie Comito with Iowa Learning Farms and Water Rocks! (who, by the way, was honored this past spring as a recipient of the National Wetlands Award). We were happy to see we were positioned next to our perennial neighbor at this conference, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture. It gives us a chance to catch up with our colleagues – these are busy times in the Iowa water landscape, so we don’t always have the time to keep up with each other like we’d like to!
Another reason we keep coming back is the quality conversations we have with attendees of the conference. Our booth is boring compared to some others – we don’t hand out pens, or candy, or keychains – in fact, this year, we just had our display, Iowa Water Conference Save-the-Date postcards, and copies of our white paper of Water Resources Priorities from the 2015 Iowa Water Conference session. But the district commissioners don’t care that they won’t pick up a water bottle or a stress ball from us. They want to know who we are, what we do, what we’re working on, and how they can use us as a resource. These are elected officials who will go back home after two days of soaking up information and will use it to better soil and water conservation management in their district. There are 500 soil and water conservation district commissioners, and they want to talk to you (yes, you!) about what can be done in YOUR district for soil and water. Find contact information for your commissioners and have a conversation about conservation.