MOUNT VERNON — The Knox Soil & Water Conservation District held its annual legislative luncheon Friday at the Agricultural Building. The purpose of the meeting is for local and state officials to gather and exchange views and information about what the KSWCD is doing.
Rob Clendening, program administrator for KSWCD spoke briefly to the group about the goals and aims of the KSWCD.
“It’s been 62 years since the Soil & Water Conservation District was formed here in Knox County,” he said. “We were charged from the onset with soil and water resource conservation. That continues to be what our mission is all about here in Knox County. And all of you are partners to one extent or another in that effort.”
Clendening said it is important to understand the relationship between land resources and economic well-being. He noted a 2003 study by the American Farmland trust showed that rural residential land uses $1.05 in services for every dollar it generates. Agricultural land uses only 29 cents for every dollar it generates.
“And what many people don’t realize is that every dollar generated by agriculture in the county gets circulated 10 times locally,” Clendening added. “I think that’s an important indicator of how important our land resources are here in Knox County.”
Part of the KSWCD’s focus is on soil resources and rural development. Clendening said about 57 percent of the county’s soil acreage is considered to be prime agricultural soils. These soils have the qualities necessary to produce food and fiber crops with high yields in an economical and sustained manner.
“Unfortunately, these acres are also considered prime areas for development,” Clendening added.
Those in attendance felt the work of the KSWCD is invaluable to what they do. Mount Vernon City Council President John Booth was one of those.
“I’m not sure how close we work with them,” he said. “But what we just heard about how one dollar of agriculture money circulates 10 times in the county is important to the city and villages because that’s where a lot of that money is spent.”
“I am getting up to speed on the issues that are affecting us,” said Teresa Bemiller, Knox County commissioner. “I think the SWCD is a great organization and does a lot as far as soil conservation, and I think it’s important in a rural area to have such an active agency such as this. And I think Rob [Clendening] is just great.”
Kim Marshall, director of the Knox County Parks District, said she feels fortunate to have the KSWCD to help keep recreational green space an important part of life in Knox County.
“We work closely with their education specialists,” she said. “And we use SWCD as technical advisors on some of our projects where we have erosion issues and where we need help maintaining good grassland cover in some of our parks. We really rely on them and we encourage landowners to use them because they are a wonderful resource.”