Advocating for the stewardship of our land, water, forests, and wildlife is at the heart of all we do. For the last 68 years, the District has promoted the wise use of land and best management practices that will conserve, improve and sustain the natural resources of Duval County. It brings us great pleasure to know that we are joined by nearly 3,000 conservation districts across the nation working for voluntary, locally-led conservation. Through this work, we ensure that we always have the ability to feed our communities and that our children and grandchildren will continue to enjoy our beautiful natural resources. We invite you to read our 2021 Annual Report and consider partnering with us. With your help, we can continue to be a model for conservation and stewardship!
The Duval Soil and Water Conservation District board is urging Governor DeSantis to veto SB1078. As Florida’s economy and population continues to grow, Soil and Water Conservation Districts provide a critical service promoting the conservation of our most valuable asset, Florida’s natural resources.
What is the purpose of Soil and Water Conservation Districts? Florida Statue 582.02 identifies the purpose of Soil and Water Conservation Districts as being to promote the appropriate and efficient use of soil and water resources, protect water quality, prevent floodwater and sediment damage, preserve wildlife, protect public lands, and protect and promote the health, safety, and general welfare of the people of this state. The statute also identifies the focus of this mission as being not just on farmlands but also the forest, grazing lands, green spaces, recreational areas and natural areas of the state. Soil and Water Conservation District leadership provides assistance, guidance, and education not just to the agricultural industry, but also to landowners, land occupiers, and the general public in implementing land and water resource protection practices. SB1078 limits board membership to only those with farming or agricultural background which will prevent soil scientists, civil engineers, water quality experts, educators and conservationists from serving. This will severely limit the ability of Soil and Water Conservation Districts to fulfill the obligations of the statute.
It is worth noting that the Governor has made it a priority of his administration to improve water quality across the state and to protect wildlife including Florida manatees. The passage of SB1078 undermines the Governor’s achievements in these areas of natural resource protection.
The Duval Soil and Water Conservation District urges the Governor to veto any bill which weakens any Florida Soil and Water Conservation District, specifically Senate Bill 1078. We urge the people of Florida to join us in this effort!
We are pleased to partner with the St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD) to increase awareness about the importance of water conservation with our annual Water Conservation Month Proclamation.
This spring is a great time to check your automatic sprinkler system to make sure it is functioning properly to conserve water. Here are some tips to help:
Other great resources recommended by SJRWMD:
The Duval Soil and Water Conservation District would like to thank April Thomas for her contributions to our organization, and especially the S-Line Regeneration Park Project. April was part of the University of North Florida's (UNF) Environmental Leadership Program. In Fall 2021, she and her cohort participated in leadership training and a retreat through UNF. This is also when different organizations participated in an online interview to match students with their community partners. April was matched with us and met with Duval SWCD's Urban Agriculture Coordinator, Alison O'Donoughue, to discuss the plan for her project.
April's project began in the spring. She was tasked with helping develop and advertise the mulch spreading work day and pollinator garden workshop. April researched pollinator plant species, discussed the plant palette, assisted in spreading mulch and planting at the park. She also created a multi-media presentation of the progress of the Regeneration Park Project using photos and videos collected by supervisors and staff over the course of 10 months. Finally, as part of the UNF requirement, she created a poster about her experience and will be presenting it at a future conference.
Thank you again, April! If you're interested in learning more about the UNF Environmental Leadership Program you can visit their website here. If you'd like to volunteer or intern with the Duval Soil and Water Conservation District, feel free to email us at email@example.com
Applications are now open for the 2022 Start Farming Mentorship program! The goal of the mentorship is to empower Duval County residents with the tools and information necessary to start their own farm or agribusiness. In a mix of in-person workshops, virtual training, and on-site farm tours, mentees will learn about sustainable farming practices, resources available to start a farm and issues in farming practice. The program will take place from May to December, 2022. To receive a certificate of completion, mentees must attend at least 80% of programs offered.
An outline of the calendar of events is as follows:
May- In-Person Workshop on Water Conservation, Farm Tour of Juicy Roots
June- Virtual Workshop on Uprooting Racism in Food Systems, Farm Tour of White Harvest Farms
July- In-Person Workshop on Soil Health
August- Virtual Workshop on Florida Farm Bill
September- Farm Tour of Congaree and Penn, In-Person Pollinator Workshop
October- Farm Tour of Lola Farms
December- Panel Discussion & Holiday Market, Closing Celebration
The Start Farming Mentorship program is open to new farmers who reside in Duval County and are interested in starting a farm business. Preference will be given to past attendees of the District’s annual Start Farming events. Applications are only accepted online through this Google Form and must be submitted by April 16, 2022. Please note that there will be a small charge associated with this program. Additional details will be provided if you are chosen for the mentorship. If you have any questions or comments, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Duval Soil and Water Conservation District is excited to announce that Allen Skinner of Soil Life Organics has recently been named a Soil Health Champion by the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD)! Only the second Soil Health Champion in Florida and the first to be recognized in Duval County, Skinner joins approximately 300 members who practice positive soil health management and will help conduct outreach in their communities to improve soil health.
Skinner graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in Mechanical Engineering and practiced for over 20 years before becoming interested in soil biology. He is the founder and president Soil Life Organics, a local company that completes soil biology, structure and mineral assessments then assists in implementing programs to optimize soil performance. Since 2016, Skinner has been mentored by renowned soil biologist, Dr. Elaine Ingham. This spring (2022) he will complete his certification as a Soil Food Web Consultant. Skinner also serves on the board of Greenscape of Jacksonville, which is working to improve the urban tree canopy in Jacksonville FL. He recently completed a study at White Harvest Farms under a NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant. The study analyzed different farming methods using soil biology to reduce chemical inputs over the course of 3 years and has recently been published (short report here).
Duval SWCD has had the pleasure of working with Skinner, most recently helping to improve the soil quality at Regeneration Park. He performed an in-depth soil analysis of the site, made recommendations, then returned a few months later to inoculate the mulch with his company's special compost extracts all while sharing his extensive knowledge with the community and volunteers who attended the workshops.
Says Duval SWCD Chair, Jennifer Casey, “Allen has been a friend of the District for many years. His passion and enthusiasm for soil health has improved both public and private land while inspiring a new generation of land stewards in Duval County.”
We are excited to again host the annual Speech and Poster Contest! The winners of the Duval County Speech Contest receive a cash prize, plus one student will get an invitation to compete regionally and statewide for grades 6-12th. The poster contest is an additional way to compete in the competition for grades K-12.
This year the Speech & Poster Contest will be 100% Virtual. Students must submit their entry online for judging.
The topic for both competitions is "HEALTHY SOIL, HEALTHY LIFE". Speeches are to be no more than 5-7 minutes. Independent research on the topic works to further educate students in conservation and natural resources, while public speaking provides a host of additional benefits. Artistic skills are called on for the poster contest, and all ages are encouraged to participate. Cash prizes are given to top winners.
Entry Deadline April 30, 2022. Email to email@example.com.
Please download the ENTRY FORMS below.
To enter the Poster Contest, please email the completed sign up form and high quality photos of the poster to show the front and back including ALL edges.
To enter the Speech Contest, please email the completed sign up form and a video recording of the student reciting their speech via an attached file or YouTube.com link.
2021 Speech Contest:
First place - $ 50.00
Second place - $ 30.00
Third place - $ 20.00
2021 Poster contest:
Categories - K-1; 2-3; 4-6; 7-9; 10-12
First place - $ 40.00 for each Category
Second place - $ 20.00 for each Category
Third place - $ 10.00 for each Category
The Duval Soil and Water Conservation District is looking for a part-time District Aide. This volunteer position works closely with elected officials and assists with District communications and administrative needs. See the position description below and contact us if you are interested!
The Florida Legislature is considering legislation to abolish all 58 Florida conservation districts this year. The Duval Soil and Water Conservation District (DSWCD) opposes HB 783 and SB 1078. These bills are currently in committee.
Since their inception during the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s, almost 3,000 conservation districts located in counties throughout the United States and its territories, have provided critical conservation services through citizen driven, locally directed agencies led by nonpartisan elected, unpaid Supervisors. What makes conservation districts unique is that their programming is designed to meet the specific needs of each county they serve.
In Duval County, our programs, projects and activities are focused on the needs of our thriving urban District. Through partnerships with FDACS (Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services) , NRCS (Natural Resource Conservation Service), USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) and others, DSWCD provides much needed cost share funding to agricultural operators who engage in Best Management Practices to save millions of gallons of water, reclaim land, restore water quality, protect wildlife and enhance soil nutrition to maximize crop production and yield. Over the last three years, through these partnerships, DSWCD facilitated free technical and financial assistance valued at $1,021,503.12 to growers and residents in Duval County.
In addition, DSWCD provides conservation education in many forms including student programs like the annual Fred B. Miller Jr. Regional Envirothon, Joe B. Forshee, Jr. Speech & Poster Contest, visits to classrooms, and other events for students and educators. We also provide programs for the public including our annual Conservation Photo Contest, Earth Day Celebration, educational workshops and more. In 2021, we expanded our Start Farming agricultural awareness event into a yearlong mentorship program for beginning farmers and established our Regeneration Park green infrastructure and community stewardship project in the urban core. These two programs brought in more than 100 new volunteers and over $65,000 in new private donations and grants to conserve, improve and sustain the natural resources of Duval County.
Simply put, Soil and Water Conservation Districts are volunteer educators, not regulators, who meet a critical public need with funding from private donations and grants. Your support in opposing this legislation is both imperative and greatly appreciated. Please reach out to your state senators and representatives and let them know that you oppose HB 783 and SB 1078 any legislation that would dissolve or weaken any Florida Soil and Water Conservation District.
Additional Information - Association of Florida Conservation Districts Memorandum Regarding SB 1078 / HB 783
WASHINGTON – Today, the National Conservation Foundation (NCF) formally announced names of the seven participants selected to participate in the second cohort of the Next Generation Leadership Institute (NGLI).
NGLI was formally launched in August of 2019 as a year-long program to advance conservation leadership. Created in response to a high demand for leadership instruction for conservation district leaders facing the challenges of a changing world, NGLI was established to provide conservation professionals with the tools to become national leaders through personal, civic, and organizational leadership development.
The 2022 NGLI cohort participants were selected through a competitive national application process. This will be the second cohort for the program since its launch in 2019.
The 2022 cohort participants include:
NGLI participants will meet for four training sessions throughout the year, with a capstone session at the 2023 National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) Annual Meeting in New Orleans. NGLI’s curriculum will equip leaders with skills and resources related to personal, civic, and organizational leadership development. This comprehensive training will help participants prepare to meet the future needs of natural resources management, helping them to increase their capacity to navigate and manage complex conservation challenges – both current and future – at the national level.
The cohort will convene for their first session at the 2022 NACD Annual Meeting from February 12-16, 2021 in Orlando, FL. Visit the NCF website for more information about the 2022 cohort.
About National Conservation Foundation (NCF)
The mission of the National Conservation Foundation (NCF) is to identify and advance strategic programs and partnerships to deliver conservation solutions through locally-led conservation and to develop the next generation of conservation leaders. Visit the NCF website to learn more.
Rebecca Cisco | 202.595.9052