Steve Robinson, chairman of the National Conservation Foundation (NCF), is a row crop farmer and excavation contractor from Marysville, Ohio.
Robinson works closely with the Union Soil and Water Conservation District, serving on its board for over 30 years. His contracting company also builds a lot of the conservation practices drawn up by local soil and water conservation districts.
Robinson first got involved with NACD in the late 90s when he was president of the Ohio Federation of Soil and Water Conservation Districts. He served on NACD’s Board of Directors, became a region chair and a part of the officer team, until finally serving as the national president in 2010 and 2011. He’s been involved with NCF for about 10 years, first serving on the board and then becoming chair a few years ago.
Robinson recently spoke with NACD. Below are some of his answers.
Why do conservation districts matter?
I think they bring a local perspective to the top, whether it’s to the county level, state level or national level. Also, I think they garner a lot of respect because they’re volunteers; we all volunteer our time. If you go somewhere and you spend some time talking about conservation, it’s appreciated more because of how we were set up.
Why does NACD matter?
It’s the national perspective. It’s working with NRCS at the national level, working on the farm bill, and lobbying some of the congressmen and senators. We’re working to get programs back to the states and back to the local conservation districts.
Why is supporting NCF important to you?
It furthers the conservation cause. But, even more than that, now that we’ve got the Envirothon involved, it’s helping kids. You know, from the local level to the national level, several thousand kids a year learn more about what conservation is and what it does.
“It’s such a joy just to see all these kids participate and how much fun they have.”
Why is diversity important in conservation?
You’ve got diversity from the land: orchards, grass, crops and timber. Then you’ve got diversity in the people: from east to west across the country; more water or lack of water. All kinds of things to be taught and to learn.
What is the purpose and impact of the Next Generation Leadership Institute?
The purpose and the impact are to generate new leaders – people who want to lead the organization. My hope is that it can be down to the state level, not just national leaders but state leaders, even county leaders. If it could mushroom into that, it would be wonderful.
Why should individuals donate to this campaign?
That goes back to who NCF is and what we represent. We’re volunteers hoping to further the conservation on the land, and there’s no other organization that does that like we do it, so we need to tell that story.
“My goal for NCF is to get more sponsors so that we don’t have to depend on others or states and also have the ability to do other things for conservation, for conservation districts, to further the cause for conservation.”
What is NACD’s legacy?
Legacy to me is kind of what NACD has been from the historical side. I think NACD has evolved quite a lot in the last 25 years. I think we have more respect in D.C. than we did 25 years ago. I think there are folks that appreciate what we bring to the table.
From a farmer’s perspective, how has NACD helped you and how can it help others?
I think NACD helps farmers from the standpoint of lobbying and getting different parts of things into the farm bill. That helps conservation because we’re really the only entity that works to do that.
What is your favorite memory of NACD?
I had just become national president and not been there maybe two or three months, got a phone call from the chief of NRCS at the time, and his question for me was would you come and meet me for dinner. Which I thought you know lonely little me supervisor from my own town, you know, go to Washington and have dinner because I said sure I’ll come. And what he told me I’ve never forgotten and I probably never will. And it was as simple as ‘You don’t know how valuable it is to us to hear what’s going on the ground.’ And I’ve always told that anytime I’ve spoke, even to Congress people. Your voice is important.
Please help support conservation leaders 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.
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