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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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
Congratulations to this year’s photo contest winners! Kris Kiernan's "Jackfruit Gone Wild" was our 1st place overall winner. Kris will receive a $100 prize! The winner for the category Conservation in Action goes to Ann Miles for her photo “Bioswale Planting”. Finally, the category winner for Close-Up Conservation goes to Henry O’Donoughue for his photo of “Liatris”. Each of our winners were entered in the National Association of Conservation District’s contest, which will be decided on next month.
Fred B. Miller, Jr. Regional Envirothon
Thursday, March 3, 8:00 AM – 12:45 PM at Tree Hill Nature Center
The Envirothon competition is open to students from the 9th to 12th grade. Five students compete as a team and answer questions about forestry, soils, aquatics, wildlife, and a current issue. The 2022 Envirothon current environmental issue is "Waste to Resources". The winners of the local competitions compete at the Florida Envirothon, and the state winner competes at the National Envirothon.
Teaching resources from our national partners will be available in the coming weeks. Consider following our Envirothon Facebook page for updates. We will also make the information available on our website. We may have Envirothon resource professionals available to conduct workshops prior to the competition. Details to come.
2022 Envirothon Brochure
Regional Envirothon Website
Envirothon Registration Form
Joyce Miller, Coordinator at email@example.com or 410-688-2365
Allen L. Moore at firstname.lastname@example.org or 904-465-0678
Jacksonville, FL — In 2021, the Duval Soil and Water Conservation District introduced the Start Farming Mentorship program to support new farmers by providing tours of local farm operations and onsite workshops about sustainable practices, including water conservation, composting and permaculture. The year-long program, made possible by a $2,500 grant award from the National Association of Conservation Districts and volunteer mentors, selected 15 applicants to explore farming opportunities in Duval County.
“In an urban district like ours, new farmers often have not grown up on the farm, so it is essential that they have mentors to provide advice and guidance,” said Jennifer Casey, Chair. “Beginning farmers will now have the opportunity to explore diverse farm operations and learn how sustainable regenerative solutions like composting, permaculture and rainwater catchment can help them overcome some of the challenges of starting a farming endeavor.”
Over the course of the year, participants took guided tours of four farms, from an urban farm in a food dessert to a rural commercial operation. In addition, each received a Sustainable Solutions Kit valued at over $150 which included a rain barrel for water conservation, a compost kit, and seed to attract beneficial pollinators.
“What I’ve found is there is no substitute for first-hand experience and seeing things with your own eyes," says participant Don DeStephano. "I read a lot on the internet, but seeing composting in action and no till gardening and farming, and learning about programs I wasn’t aware of…I’m very grateful and pleased I was a part of it.”
Beyond the training, participants had the opportunity to network with the local agricultural community and with agency personnel offering conservation funding assistance to growers and producers.
About Duval Soil and Water Conservation District:
Duval Soil and Water Conservation District promotes the responsible management and conservation of natural resources by delivering conservation technology and education to local landowners and users and by promoting the wise use of land and best management practices that will conserve, improve and sustain the natural resources of Duval County.
The Duval Soil and Water Conservation District was proud to host our 5th annual Start Farming Panel Discussion and Market on December 1st at the Duval County Agricultural Extension Office. Each year the event features panelists of local farmers and agency representatives that educate the community on ways in which they can get involved in farming. This year the panel discussion included Charles Goodin of Johnny Appleseed Organic, Mika Hardison of The Herban Bee, Kimberly Ruessler of Lola Farms and Dr. Stephen Jennewein who is the UF/IFAS Small Farms Extension Agent.
We also heard from participants in our Start Farming Mentorship program and celebrated their accomplishments this year. The event also featured a holiday market where attendees were able to purchase locally grown produce and plants as well as holiday gift items from local makers and artisans. Guests enjoyed an amazing dinner from Chancho King which featured locally-sourced ingredients from Lola Farms and dessert from The Spoonful Bakery.
Thank you to our presenting sponsor Cascade Outdoor Design and to our supporting sponsors including NativeJax, Apple Rabbit Compost, Edible Northeast Florida, Riverside Arts Market, and the St. Johns County Soil and Water Conservation District. This event is offered annually as a free service to our citizens and our agricultural community thanks to our generous sponsors!
Join us for our 5th Annual Start Farming event. Hear from First Coast farmers, ask questions, buy local goods, and get answers to start farming today!
Dr. Stephen Jennewein, UF/IFAS Small Farms Extension Agent
Charles Goodin of Johnny Appleseed Organic
Mika Hardison of The Herban Bee
Kimberly Ruessler of Lola Farms
The Herban Bee
White Harvest Farms
Little Black Box
Apple Rabbit Compost
Dave The Plant Man
Eat Your Yard Jax
Clinical Traditions Herbalist
Madison Schott Ceramics
Kristina Hoover Fine Art
Connor Poovey Art
The Spoonful Bakery
Cascade Outdoor Design
Apple Rabbit Compost
Edible Northeast Florida
Riverside Arts Market
St Johns Soil and Water Conservation District
This event is offered as a free service to our citizens and our agricultural community thanks to our generous sponsors.