Brent Pollard (Winnebago-Boone Farm Bureau) with Roger Christin.

The Winnebago County SWCD held a Fall Gathering on Sept. 29 at the Torstenson Youth Conservation Education Center in rural Pecatonica. About 50 people attended the event. There was a wagon tour of the property, showcasing the native grassland plantings on the property, woodland restoration projects they are undertaking, and some of the water features on the site, as the property lies in the Pecatonica River floodplain.

A barbeque dinner with all the fixings was served. There was a presentation from Tim and Addy Ford, owners of the Barnstormers Distillery, located just southwest of Rockford; and a video presentation from FREED Hemp Company, owned by Eddie Freedlund. The evening concluded with the presentation of awards.

The Environmental Awareness Award was presented to the Wild Ones – Rock River Valley Chapter. This Chapter was established in 1994 to promote the many benefits of landscaping using native plants.

People come to Wild Ones to learn about environmentally friendly gardening, about plants native to our area that have evolved to survive our climate without help from artificial means.

They do so by publishing monthly newsletters and providing monthly educational programs on various natural resource topics including prairies, woodlands, and wetlands.

They provide a native plant sale in the spring; and in the fall, they have a native tree and shrub sale. The award was sponsored by the Winnebago Chapter of Pheasants Forever.

The Next Generation Farmer Award was presented to Mike and Steven Leick. The brothers farm about 1,400 acres just west of Rockford. They utilize USDA programs to integrate conservation measures to reduce soil erosion and prevent nutrient loss.

Some practices include incorporating precision ag technology for their nutrient management program, so they only apply what the crop needs: and planting cover crops in the fall after harvest, which helps reduce soil erosion, sequester nutrients, and improve overall soil health.

They have sensitive areas such as field edges and stream corridors enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program.

The award was sponsored by the Natural Land Institute and Precision Conservation Management.

The Chairmans Special Award was presented to the Rockford Park District, in recognition of their efforts in developing the South Fork Kent Creek Watershed Plan. The Park District wanted to maintain and improve the water quality of Levings Lake, which has important recreational value to the District.

This led them to apply for an IEPA Section 319 grant to conduct a study of the watershed. Planning efforts kicked off in early 2019 and wrapped up in late 2020. The plan helped identify both urban and rural water quality issues and solutions to improve the water quality of the Creek.

Based on the recommendations, they have implemented several improvements around the Lake, such as floating islands to absorb nutrients that are in the lake; and installing vegetated filter strips and a constructed stormwater wetlands, that incorporate native plantings to help filter runoff before it enters the Lake.

An “Environmental Education” Award was presented to Mychael Drews, the sixth-grade teacher from the Durand School District. She was acknowledged for her work in the Natures Classroom, which was developed to the west of the school, next to the Ed Johnston prairie.

The goal of the outdoor learning site is to increase motivation and physical activity, decrease stress levels, leading to better health and grades.

Mrs. Drew’s students also collect the recycling material at the school as part of the Service Learning and Environmental Science Club.

Her students also volunteer in community events such as providing fall cleanup for the elderly, and other activities. She also recently completed building a chicken coop at the rural Dolan Center property. Solutions Bank in Durand sponsored the Award.

Roger Christin was given the District’s Director Service Award. Roger served as a Board member for the District from 2014 through this past winter.

Prior to being on the Board, Roger served as the Farm Bureau manager for 20 years, until he retired from that position in 2012.

Roger’s time with the District was greatly appreciated, as he always provided great insight into the issues affecting the Agricultural community. Roger assisted with educational activities and events of not only the District, such as the Monarch Fiesta, but also those of our partners, with the Youth Groundwater Festival. The Winnebago-Boone Farm Bureau was the sponsor of the award.

The Winnebago County Soil and Water Conservation District is an equal opportunity employer.

All programs and services are offered without regard to race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, marital status or handicap.

Thank you to our Award Sponsors – PCM (Precision Conservation Management), Winnebago-Boone Farm Bureau, Solutions Bank, Pheasants Forever and Natural Land Institute.

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