NACD 2023 Annual Meeting TA Grant Participant: Susan Koch

This blog post is part of a six-part series highlighting technical assistance (TA) grant recipient participation at NACD’s 77th Annual Meeting in New Orleans, LA. This post’s author, Susan Koch of Cedar Soil Conservation District in ND, attended the meeting with a TA stipend.

Picture this: You’re in New Orleans during Mardi Gras, surrounded by colorful beads, delicious food, and lively music. But instead of just indulging in the festivities, you also attend a national convention of conservation leaders from across the country. That’s right; you’re about to learn all about the latest updates in technical assistance and outreach grants while meeting fellow conservationists from every corner of the U.S. That was the experience I had while attending NACD’s 2023 Annual Meeting in February.

At first, you might think that the meeting would be a bit dry compared to the festivities on the streets of New Orleans, but you’re pleasantly surprised to find that it’s both informative and exciting. You quickly realize that despite many similarities between conservation districts, each has unique challenges and strengths. For instance, North Dakota is dealing with drought issues and is working to figure out how to provide enough water for livestock and vegetation. On the other hand, our local soil conservation district, Sioux County is unique in that it’s entirely within the boundaries of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.

A highlight of the meeting was when Meg Leader, the NACD Director of Conservation Programs, and learning of a new NACD team member, Chloe Hundelt, the new Grant Specialist. You could sense the excitement in the room as they shared that request for proposals for the TA2023 grants would be out this spring. There’s also a change in priorities for whom NACD would like to award the grants.  This time, the focus would be on new producers and outreach to historically underserved producers and tribes.  With $15 million in funds available, the possibilities are encouraging!

But the meeting wasn’t just all business. There was also a chance to socialize and connect with fellow conservationists. I had a great time chatting with my counterparts from other states and learning about the various projects they’re working on. And let’s remember the Showcase, where the grant stipend recipient’s posters were displayed. It was fascinating to see the innovative ways that people were using their grants to positively impact their communities.

And, of course, being in New Orleans during Mardi Gras was an unforgettable experience. I couldn’t resist taking pictures and soaking in the lively atmosphere. But the best part was knowing that we are also making a difference in conservation. Who says you can’t have fun while also making a positive impact?

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