There is new leadership for the Division of Soil Conservation in the Indiana State Department of Agriculture. Trevor Laureys, already an employee in the division, was tapped as director, filling the position that became vacant after Jordan Seeger became deputy director for ISDA.
Here is an exclusive interview with Laureys:
Tell us about your background and how you became interested in soil conservation. I grew up in St. Joseph County near New Carlisle. My parents’ families aren’t farmers, but there is farming in my family. Growing up in a small town made agriculture a cornerstone of my community. I enjoyed fishing and hiking and other outdoor activities.
I graduated from Indiana University in 2015 with a degree in public affairs and environmental management. While there, I interned with ISDA in the Division of Soil Conservation. Working there and being involved with conservation seemed like a natural fit.
How did you work your way from an intern to the new director? I was hired in 2015 to be the resource specialist for our staff working in northwest Indiana. That gave me experience of how we work in the field, and I saw the value of conservation partnerships with other agencies and groups firsthand.
During the past two years, I worked as GIS and data analysis director within the division. When the director position opened, I saw it as an opportunity, and I’m excited that our leadership has trust in me to fulfill this role.
What is the scope of the Division of Soil Conservation that you now manage? The division is a private lands conservation agency with over 30 employees. Our employees work at various times in every county in Indiana. Many employees work alongside employees of the Natural Resources Conservation Service and those from local soil and water conservation districts. The skill set of our employees varies. Some work more on education and promotion of conservation, while others provide technical expertise and work in the field on soil conservation projects.
What do you see for the division as you look to the future? I look forward to continuing the work of conservation and working with our soil conservation partners. I hope we can expand the number of partners we work with to include both private and public entities. My goal is to work together with others to serve farmers and put conservation practices in place on the land.
What are some specific goals and projects that you have in mind? In 2020, as a conservation partnership, we put 32,000 practices in place in Indiana. That is anything from cover crops to nutrient management plans to livestock practices. My goal is to continue that momentum.
One way we will do our part is by elevating the skill set of our staff. That will include various forms of training and development.
We also have a unique opportunity to lead the roughly $8 million effort which was just announced by USDA to invest in the Western Lake Erie Basin in northeast Indiana. Working closely with NRCS and other public and private partners, we will focus on putting conservation on the land to reduce nutrient loss and sedimentation, and on educating landowners on soil health.