Wayne Soil and Water Conservation District turns 75

Wayne Soil and Water Conservation District turns 75
John Lorson

The Wayne Soil & Water Conservation District is celebrating its 75th year in 2022, helping landowners keep soil in its place and waters clean.


When you hit a milestone like a 75th anniversary, it’s a big deal, so you throw a big party. The Wayne Soil & Water Conservation District is no different.

On Nov. 3 at The Connection Conference and Event Center in Wooster, the organization celebrated 75 years of accomplishments, people and history.

“We’re cranking it up with the recognition,” John Lorson, SWCD district manager, said in the days leading up to the anniversary celebration. “We usually have a video of yearly events and education events, but this year there’s going to be a slide show that goes back the past 75 years. We’re at a new venue, a little bit fancier, classier venue. But we don’t expect the guests to dress up any differently.”

About 115 were expected to be on hand for the commemoration of the organization, which formed in 1947. Lorson credited SWCD education specialist Kelly Riley and administrative assistant Stacey Hiller with putting everything together for the event.

Highlights of the event were the annual Conservation Farm Award, which went to Shane and Suzanne Hartzler and family of Crossroads Dairy; the SWCD’s Teacher/Educator of the Year Award, with Dave Parfitt garnering that recognition; and a scheduled appearance by featured speaker Paul Locher, a longtime journalist and area historian.

The Conservation Farm Award goes to someone who looks to do what’s best for the land and who seeks out advice and guidance from the SWCD for doing those things.

“Quite often we are awarding a farm we’ve worked with for generations,” Lorson said. “That will be the case this year. Farms are oftentimes notoriously humble, and they do what they do because it’s best for the land and their livestock and their families, and it winds up being what’s best for all of us as well. They’re bashful about the recognition”

Lorson pointed out the Hartzlers’ job of striking a balance between the profession of farming and the passion of conservation, “keeping an eye on both today and tomorrow. They do what’s right because it’s the right thing to do.”

Lorson said the significance of the conservation award is that of the hundreds of farms in the area. Nearly all are conservation farms. So to stand out among that group is truly impressive.

“We have had some award winners that have been recommended, and maybe others who are deserving of the award and we didn’t need to go out and work with them,” he said. “They deserved recognition because they are so on it.”

Recognized as the SWCD’s Teacher/Educator of the Year was Parfitt, a retired Chippewa teacher. The award goes to a teacher or “remarkable individual” in the community for outstanding work in conducting, teaching or promoting environmental education and conservation.

For half a century, Parfitt educated students outdoors in what has become known as Parfitt’s Paradise. In once was an abandoned cow pasture adjacent to Chippewa High School. Parfitt planted tree seedlings, and it became a place youngsters could learn about various topics.

“It’s been visited by countless amounts of students, and it’s all because of this one guy,” Lorson said. “And he still keeps it up.”

While it did this year, the educator honor does not always go to a teacher. It can be bestowed upon people who have been doing good within the county, at the fairgrounds doing outreach recycling efforts for the fair, for example.

“There was one person on the fair board who went above and beyond and then took it even farther, and you like to honor people who do that,” Riley said. “We’ve also awarded it to a couple businesses. So it wasn’t just teachers And there’s been people at the parks, like Barnes Preserve, people there who have been recognized, teachers and community members and businesses that outreach.

“I don’t like to have my blinders on when I think about conservation. I have broadened it to community and outreach and not just the confines of schools.”

Locher, known to many folks in Wayne County as a longtime reporter and writer for The Wooster Daily Record, who is retired, is equally known as among the foremost Wayne County historians.

“Nobody knows more about the history of agriculture than Paul does,” Lorson said. “He helped establish the Buckeye Agricultural Center Museum and Education Center down by the fairgrounds. He has curated a lot of the things there.”

Among those things is the first barn ever built in Wayne County. Back when Locher was still a reporter, he had the foresight decades ago to preserve a barn being taken down where the new Wooster High School was being built.

Originally constructed in 1860, the barn was taken down and kept in storage until it could actually be put back together by the museum. Lorson said, “(It) was just an enormous undertaking for a lot of people.”

Locher was expected to bring with him many implements such as hand tools and other things used on the farm anywhere from the early 1800s until World War II.

“What I’m really excited about is there will be some people among our guests who will recognize something their grandfather used or maybe even something they used years ago. To the lay person, they don’t know what the heck these things are,” Locher said.

The plan also was to recognize SWCD past supervisors. A supervisor is a member of the SWCD Board of Supervisors. They are elected but unpaid individuals who serve three-year terms.

“Some of our supervisors have served 26 years. Some have only served maybe only three years,” Hiller said. “Whichever ones we have in attendance that night, we’ll recognize, and even some who aren’t.”

Others expected to be on hand at the event — tickets were required — were former winners of the awards.

For more information about the SWCD, visit www.wayneswcd.org.

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