John Redding’s foundation as a leader and advocate of conservation started at Clay County High School as a Future Farmers of America (FFA) member. After high school, John attended Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College and received an associate in science degree. He then continued his education at the University of Georgia where he received his bachelor’s and ultimately a master’s degree in education.
John’s teaching career began at Monroe Area High School, where he was a vocational agriculture teacher for six years. It was also during this time that he became acquainted with Julian E. Brown, a district conservationist with the organization that is now known as the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS). Mr. Brown encouraged John to become involved in local conservation issues. Ultimately, their partnership led to the creation of the Julian E. Brown Study Area at Mathews Park in Monroe, GA.
After his work as an educator, John began a career as an agent with the Georgia Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company. He held this position for almost 48 years and won numerous contests including Round Table, All-Star and Master Agent. In 1978, he was appointed to the newly formed Walton County Soil and Water Conservation District and in 1979 was elected its chair. He held this position for the next 31 years, in which the district won the Goodyear Award four times, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) Distinguished District Award, and the NRCS Earth Team Award. As district chair, he collaborated with the area’s cities and counties to support planning and construction of two regional water supply reservoirs: the Lake Varner and Hard Labor Creek reservoirs.
John also led strategic planning and policy development efforts for Georgia and the United States to expand the conservation title of the Food Conservation and Energy Act, i.e., the Farm Bill. In the early 1990s, John worked extensively with state legislators to secure funding for districts and the Resource Conservation & Development (RC&D) Councils in Georgia to purchase no-till planters, tractors, trailers, and lagoon pump-out equipment. This equipment has allowed districts to contract with local landowners to plant or reseed pastures, offering benefits to the producer in savings on equipment, to the environment as fuel savings, and to the districts as an additional source of income.
John took his enthusiasm and experience to the national level when he became involved with the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD). He served as an NACD board member, committee chair, region chair, executive board member, and treasurer. These experiences prepared him to take on the role of NACD president in 2008. As president, John was able to testify and present NACD’s proposals to the U.S. House and Senate Agriculture Committees. He is most proud of when he was selected by U.S. Secretary Vilsack to serve as a panelist at the National Rural Summit, and when he was asked by President George W. Bush to participate in the Collaborative Conservation event in Washington, DC. John is currently the treasurer of the National Conservation Foundation’s (NCF) Executive Committee, an affiliate organization of NACD.
A second-generation landowner, John practices what he preaches. He owns a 500-acre farm where cotton, peanuts, and timber are produced. Each of these crops are irrigated using four wells and a nine-acre pond. Other conservation practices he employs are riparian buffers, conservation tillage and grassed waterways, just to name a few. This hands-on practice of conservation fuels his passion for sharing with others. John’s work in conservation has taken him around the country, challenged his way of thinking, and brought many opportunities to overcome obstacles. But in all this work, John has most enjoyed meeting and working with some of the greatest people throughout the United States: people who share his passion and love for the land. John is married to the former Levon Wilkerson, father to Cynthia (Tom Walker) and Carly, and proud grandfather to Lucy. He attends Pleasant Valley United Methodist Church where he serves as Chair of the Administrative Board and Finance Committee.