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Barry Fisher looks back on great Hoosier conservation leaders

Barry Fisher Barry Fisher and his family
MEET THE FISHERS: Barry Fisher and his family live in Putnam County, Ind. From left are Grace, Barry, Michael, Andra and Ben.
Some of the “best of the best” in getting conservation on the land helped shape his career.

If you no-till and use cover crops, you probably have heard Barry Fisher talk. The native Hoosier capped off a 39-year career with the Natural Resources Conservation Service at the end of 2020, retiring as a regional soil health specialist on the NRCS soil health team.

His career was full of innovation. And Fisher continues contributing to conservation efforts through consulting.

Fisher believes he owes a huge debt of gratitude to people he was privileged to work with in his career. “They really instilled the conservation ethic, and I’ve tried to help farmers who want to apply conservation principles make the transition as smooth as possible,” he says.

If there was an Indiana Conservation Hall of Fame, Barry Fisher would be in it, as would many who helped him along the way. You’ve read about them in Indiana Prairie Farmer.

Hoosier conservation leaders

Here are just a few of many who stood out as Fisher recounted his career:

Fred Woods. Fisher’s first summer internship with the Soil Conservation Service was with Fred Woods, a legendary NRCS employee in Martin County. Woods recently celebrated his 100th birthday.

“Talk about someone who exemplifies conservation ethic — Fred is the guy,” Fisher says. “He was not only a great technician, he showed me what it meant to be a conservation leader.”

Jane Hardisty. Fisher worked with Hardisty when she was a district conservationist in Miami County. It was his second summer internship, before he even graduated from the University of Western Kentucky. “I was fortunate to learn from Jane so early in my career,” Fisher says.

Hardisty later became state conservationist for NRCS in Michigan, and then served as state conservationist in Indiana before retiring. During her tenure as Indiana’s state conservationist, she worked closely with Fisher and the state’s conservation partners to foster the soil health movement.

Quentin Williamson. Fisher’s early career took him to Wayne County, where he worked with Quentin Williamson. Retired since 2006, Williamson had a knack for getting people to attend conservation events. He also helped pioneer the concept of a county soil and water conservation demonstration plot area, and conservation field days. Years later, Fisher helped launch the annual Conservation Expo in Putnam County, which exposed many people to no-till.

Bill Reichenbach. When Fisher took his first district conservationist job in Union County, the late Bill Reichenbach was area conservationist. “He was a huge promoter of cover crops before cover crops were cool, and he was a colorful character,” Fisher says. “He was all about getting conservation on the land.”

Leonard Jordan. This young NRCS person was the area agronomist in southeastern Indiana when Fisher worked there. Jordan later moved up the ranks, and recently spent two years as acting chief of USDA-NRCS. “He loved to visit farmers and talk to them about no-till, and he loved promoting those who were successful,” Fisher recalls.

Bob Eddleman.  This native Hoosier spent decades as state conservationist for NRCS, preceding Jane Hardisty. In the early 2000s, Fisher helped institute statewide tillage transect surveys. Soon, Eddleman questioned why no-till acres seemed to plateau. He was instrumental in obtaining a grant for a statewide conservation tillage coordinator to address it. Fisher was tapped as coordinator and kicked off the Indiana Conservation Tillage Initiative. It was the forerunner of the Conservation Cropping Systems Initiative.

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