While many conservation districts are using NACD technical assistance (TA) grant funding to grow capacity in the field, Oregon’s Umatilla County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) is utilizing TA funding to help with office program work.
In April, Tiffany Schademan was hired as a full-time program support specialist to assist the SWCD and U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) offices.
“With NRCS’ current capacity, our huge service area and the amount of workload we have, a lot of our day to day is doing [field] work and getting done what needs to get done,” Umatilla County SWCD District Manager Kyle Waggoner said. “Having additional specialist support has freed up staff to do more technical and large-scale planning work.”
Schademan has already made significant strides in re-organizing the field office files. She helps producers on a daily basis, which has significantly assisted Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) contract participants and NRCS staff. Schademan is bringing the SWCD into the 21st century by updating the website and social media pages and assisting with digital outreach and program information distribution. Additionally, the position has provided a face for the public to interact with when customers visit the office. While districts do not necessarily have that much of a federal program workload, this position makes a significant difference where they do.
“Customers are glad there is someone at the front desk who can provide technical program support and guidance,” Waggoner said. “We’ve received feedback that this is helpful for a lot of farmers who are able to better understand the components of their contracts.”
Schademan answers questions about what landowners and operators need to do to complete their contracts. This grant funding has enabled the field office to provide a higher level of customer service.
“I think we’re right on track in meeting all the goals in our grant agreement, helping complete all those EQIP contracts,” Waggoner said. “It’s been very successful and a huge help to both NRCS and the district – but most importantly, our customers.”