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2023 Indiana Conservation Award Recipients Recognized

(News release republished here with permission from IASWCD.)

Indianapolis, IN, January 24, 2024 - Earlier this month, several Hoosiers and organizations were recognized during the 81st Annual Conference of Indiana Soil and Water Conservation Districts. During the closing luncheon ceremony, statewide conservation awards were presented to honor them for their efforts in protecting Indiana’s natural resources.


With over 300 attendees, the awards luncheon was hosted at The Westin in downtown Indianapolis. Tom Turpin, retired professor, Purdue University, was the emcee.


Representatives from the award sponsors including Indiana Prairie Farmer, Brownfield Ag News and Indiana Farm Bureau attended to congratulate each recipient.


Jeff Baker, Board President, IASWCD, states, "It is my honor to participate in this award ceremony. To hear and share the stories of these amazing individuals and organizations that go above and beyond their normal duties to make their communities and our state better is inspiring. I always walk away from this event feeling good about the direction of conservation in Indiana."

Among those recognized were:

  • Earth Team Volunteer Award: Marilyn Ellicott, Newton County. Recently retired, data analyst expert, Ms. Ellicott, has volunteered over 130 hours supporting the Newton County Soil and Water Conservation District and NRCS team organizing data, participating in outreach events and training.

  • SWCD Employee Career Development Program Recognition - Thirteen SWCD staff were recognized for completing the Pilot Career Development Program. A complete list of recipients can be viewed on the Indiana District Employee website.

  • Conservation Farmer of the Year Award with Career Conservation DistinctionCain's Homelike Farms, Montgomery County. This eighth-generation farm exemplifies the definition of stewardship and is committed to lifelong conservation practices that protect and build soil health and wildlife habitat. For 25 years they have hosted the county's 4th Grade Field Days educating over 400 students a year on the importance of preserving natural resources.

  • Friend of Conservation Award (non-profit category): Help the Hellbender Project,  Purdue University, Agriculture. Created in 2007, the Help the Hellbender project combines research, outreach and a rearing program to improve conservation efforts and the hellbender population.

  • Friend of Conservation Award (individual category): Johnny Klemme, Warren County. Mr. Klemme produced Land Values, a documentary film that tells the stories of local farmers adopting conservation practices amidst challenges. It showcases the collective efforts of farmers, landowners and stakeholders and their economic and environmental success in the Big Pine Creek watershed.

  • District Showcase Award (3)Kosciusko County SWCD for the success of their Urban Healthy Soils Working Group. Montgomery County SWCD for implementing Clean Water Indiana grant funding to build district capacity with a Program Coordinator position. By showing the positive impact of this position on the community, the SWCD was able to secure permanent funding from the county to continue this position. Newton County SWCD for their Student Conservation Internship Program. Newly developed, this program provides an opportunity for local high school students to intern and "try out" various roles in conservation management.

  • Supervisor of the Year AwardMike Norman, Fulton County. Mr. Norman has served on the board of the Fulton County Soil and Water Conservation District for over 30 years. He is passionate about conserving resources, educating high school students during their annual river rafting program and participating in many SWCD events.

  • President's Award: Ray Chattin (Knox County) and Les Zimmerman (Vermillion County). Mr. Chattin and Mr. Zimmerman organized a collaborative campaign seeking additional funding for the Clean Water Indiana program. Their grassroots leadership with Indiana's Soil and Water Conservation Districts resulted in over $6 million of additional funds for conservation efforts across Indiana. 



Amy Work, Director of Member Programs & Communications, 317.692.7374 (


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