Darci Zolman, Pierceton, is proud of the Prius she drives. It delivers about 50 miles per gallon. She likes the idea of being environmentally friendly. Her husband, Don, likes his big pickup just as much. He’s all for conservation, but he’s not ready to give up his pickup.
The Zolmans farm in Kosciusko County. In addition, Darci is the Kosciusko County Soil and Water Conservation district person who wears a lot of hats. She coordinated things for the district, conducts educational programs at school, and does whatever it takes to keep the district moving forward.
She has been at the job for nearly three decades. She has even been the president at the state level of environmental education groups.
Don kids her that she likes to live on the ‘green side.’ Her district supervisors sometimes rib her as well, she notes, especially when they see her in her Prius.
“The truth is that I see both sides of many environmental issues,” Darci says.
Listening to all sides
She sometimes finds herself rubbing shoulders with hard-core environmentalists in some of her roles. That doesn’t mean she always agrees with them.
“What I feel is important is to try to understand their views,” she says. “Whether they are right or wrong or you agree with them or not, we must address the concerns they raise in their messaging.”
Why? Because the public sees the messaging, and the public often has no reason to believe farm groups or even soil and water conservation districts any more than they do environmental groups.
“Water quality is a big issue here,” Don says. “Our county has 100 lakes and two major rivers. People are paying attention to water quality, including how farmers take care of their land around these bodies of water.”
The Kosciusko SWCD engages in programs to educate farmers about how best management practices could help improve water quality, Darci notes. The district has been at the forefront of working with the University of Notre Dame on two-stage ditches, and demonstrating how they can be used to improve water quality, among other projects.