Jim grew up in the town of Greenwood, located in central Wisconsin. Settling back near the place of his childhood, Jim recently filled the position of County Conservationist for Clark County. But Wisconsin hasn’t always been home for Jim— he spent 2 years and 3 months in the city of Tocoa, Honduras as part of the Peace Corps. After teaching rural Honduran farmers about conservation practices, Jim came back to the States and continued to work with farmers as an independent consultant for 18 years.
What drew you to conservation?
I think the Peace Corps really opened my eyes a lot—it really makes you think. Unfortunately it’s really hard to change a culture, but it changed my view about the environment and that we can’t keep doing this forever.
Also, being an independent consultant for the last 17-18 years, I worked with farmers and saw some things that were done that weren’t in the most environmentally friendly way. Being kind of an outdoorsman and being concerned about the environment, I felt the urge to help educate farmers on doing things that are more environmentally friendly.
What projects are you most proud of?
Well, I’ve been here not even four months yet, so I’m finishing some projects that were already started and we got some new things going.
From a consulting end, I feel like I’ve done farmers good by teaching them how to manage their nutrients. A lot of farmers in the past haven’t done a good job of crediting their manure. They don’t really realize the detrimental effects of soil loss and what it does to our streams and rivers. That’s something I’ve always been proud of.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
I think working with farmers and if you can see that what you’re trying to explain makes sense to them and they’re willing to change… that is probably the most rewarding thing.
It can be hard, especially if you’re working with the older generation. They’re hard to change—they really are. When you get older, you get in that comfort level and change is hard for some people. If we’re going to progress, you have to change, that’s necessary.
What does the future of conservation look like in Wisconsin?
I think it will keep progressing. There will be periods when we will make improvements and then periods when it’s going to be slow. If we can get change on a local level, it’s going to be a lot easier on the farmer than if EPA comes in. At least on the local level we live here, we work with the farmers, and we know the situation a little different.
Conservation isn’t going to go away, it’s just going to be regulated more and more because going to have to be. There’s definitely going to be a job in conservation for the foreseeable future that’s for sure.
What’s one interesting fact about Clark County that not many people know?
I think we are the largest dairy county… Marathon County might have more cows, but I know we’re nip and tuck with Marathon County.
In the last 20 years, the Mennonite and Amish populations have just grown leaps and bounds. I wouldn’t be surprised if you combined the Mennonites and Amish if they made up 50% of the farmers in Clark County. Being I grew up here, the county has changed from mostly Polish, German, Slovenian, and Croatian farmers to a different culture.
What is your favorite outdoor activity?
I like gardening, and we have about 50 acres that I crop on my own. I also like biking and being outdoors. I’m not much of an office person! So I try to get out of here as often as I can.
“When I’m not a work, I’m…”
… usually at home, outside doing something. In the summertime I’m working in my garden or working in my shop on my equipment or trucks. I also spend time with my son and my wife.
I got a lot to learn in this job. I hope when I’m done with this job, I can say that I actually helped the farmers and the farming public will view me as someone who did a good job and treated everybody fair. That’s about all I can ask for.