Sam Steiner, a 2020 Next Generation Leadership Institute (NGLI) Cohort Member, owns and operates Dogwood Farms in Franklin, Ohio. On her operation, she raises grass-fed beef, pastured poultry, pastured turkeys and free-range laying hens.
Steiner grew up in Lebanon, Ohio, on a dairy and crop farm until 1998, when her family sold their dairy cattle. She got back into farming in 2010, when she begun working full-time on her operation.
Steiner is extremely active within her local school district, assisting with the Latchkey Program, a before- and after-school program for first through sixth graders. She is also a club advisor for the Warren County 4-H Program.
Steiner recently spoke with NACD about NCF and NACD, their goals and their legacy. Below are some of her answers.
How did you hear about the National Association of Conservation Districts?
My father was on the Warren County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) board. He always attended the annual meeting. My senior year, I was able to accompany my dad on the NACD trip to Reno. That was my first full introduction, and it was just amazing. It was something I knew that, when Dad retired, I wanted to become part of.
What resources are most valuable?
Networking with individuals across the country, seeing what the issues are outside of our region, and finding a better solution to a problem that we might be facing over here. NACD is our voice at the federal level and helps to create the policies that work for the everyday farmer.
How did you hear about the National Conservation Foundation (NCF)?
I first learned about NCF through the Envirothon when I became a board member. Now, I am more familiar through NGLI.
What is the purpose/impact of the Next Generation Leadership Institute?
To equip future leaders with the skillsets they need to promote conservation at all levels; starting within their own district, then state, and hopefully on to the national level. That’s what I hope for!
Why is supporting NCF important to you?
Because it allows these amazing programs, like Envirothon and NGLI, to continue. The Envirothon program supports our youth and gets them involved in the conservation movement. NGLI supports those who have taken it a step further to get involved at the local, state and federal level.
“By donating, it allows NCF to continue its mission of providing districts and other organizations funding for research, education programs and public outreach. NCF needs our support in order to continue.”
Why is education important to conservation?
It allows us to keep up with the best practices. Without education, we continue to do what we have always done. With education, it allows us to grow and expand what we know and make it better. It’s important to look for something new every day – something that’s inspiring. It keeps things brighter.
Why is diversity important in conservation?
It allows us to see things from different perspectives. We must be open to seeing things from all angles. Otherwise, if we keep these blinders on, we keep doing the same thing and thinking that our way is the best way. When you are open to diversity, you can see how people have done it differently, and how different backgrounds have brought people to where they are. So, this allows us to learn so much more if we step outside of our norm. We need to bring everybody in.
Why should emerging leaders choose to be involved in conservation?
Without conservation, I don’t believe there is any future. If we don’t protect the environment around us, then our leadership journey will be short. Agriculture needs to be able to support our population in a way that is sustainable for many generations. By being involved in conservation, it allows us to be on the front lines with the most recent research and technology available. Even outside of agriculture, leaders in other groups need to be aware of what is going on with the environment around them, because what they do has an impact on conservation.
“If we don’t have our resources, we’re not going to make it on the planet.”
What would you say is the single most important reason to educate the next generation of conservation leaders?
To provide them with a strong platform to push off and grow from. Every leader needs a base foundation to learn from. From there, the sky is the limit, and they can take it in any direction they choose. Conservation leaders need that base foundation that they learn through the Envirothon and NGLI.
Please help support conservation leaders like Sam by donating to the #FutureFocused campaign! As we prepare for a new 2021 NGLI cohort and the rescheduled 2021 NCF-Envirothon competition in Lincoln, Nebraska, set to be held in July 2021, your financial support is needed to help keep these programs moving forward.
Every contribution matters, and your support will be matched dollar-for-dollar throughout the campaign.