By: Morgan Hochsprung
The NDSU Extension is a vital resource to North Dakota. From 4-H Youth Development, to leadership, to finances, to natural resources, and everything in between, they have the average North Dakotan covered in the resources with the services they provide.
Amongst those resources is NDSU Extension Program Coordinator, Soil and Water Leadership Development, Aaron Field. The NDASCD recently reached out to Aaron to get to know him and learn about what he does for the world of conservation.
Question and Answer:
Can you tell us about yourself?
"I grew up in western Minnesota, near Pelican Rapids. My parents both worked in town but we had a small cow herd and did a little farming until I talked dad into planting it all to grass.
I went to school at Jamestown College and studied Biology with a wildlife focus. Eventually, I figured out that if you want wildlife you have to have plants, and if you want plants you need soil, so I went to NDSU to study Natural Resources Management for a master’s degree working with Dr. Kevin Sedivec. I was doing range monitoring work on the Little Missouri National Grasslands at that time, based out of Watford City.
After that I stayed at NDSU for a Ph.D. in Range Science, again working with Kevin. My research was on a site near McLaughlin, SD looking at plant community change under different grazing intensities and in different soil types.
After I finished that I spent four years in NW Nebraska teaching range management at Chadron State College. I taught courses in range plant identification, soil science, range management, and grazing ecology, among others. I really enjoyed my time there but my wife and I wanted our three daughters to spend more time with their grandparents so when I saw this position I jumped at the chance to get back close to home."
What is your role with NDSU Extension and North Dakota State Soil Conservation Committee?
"My position is through NDSU Extension and my official (and long) title is Extension Program Coordinator, Soil and Water Leadership Development. About half my time is dedicated to management and administrative work with and the other half is earmarked for soil and water leadership education. I’m available to help districts work through questions, and when there’s a common concern I’ll work to create or find educational programs or resources to address that issue. I definitely don’t have all of the answers, but I think I’m getting better at finding people who do."
What are you looking forward to the most with your new role?
"I’m looking forward to getting around the state and meeting people. I started in August when COVID was really taking off in the state and I’ve been largely office-bound since. I’m really looking forward to seeing some of the projects that districts are involved in and how they go about implementing them. I have a lot to learn and from what I’ve seen so far there are some great folks to learn from in this group."
What sparked your interest in working with the North Dakota State Soil Conservation Committee?
"I’ve always said that my career goal is to help improve the management of as many acres as possible. Teaching was a good way to do that, but I think working with the SSCC and individual SCDs offers a different way to reach the same goal. If I can help districts reach their conservation goals, I can really impact a lot of acres."
What are your hobbies?
"I have three girls, ages 6, 4, and 2, so my main hobby right now is raising kids, but I also enjoy hunting, especially bird hunting. I raise and train American Water Spaniels, so if it’s not hunting season I’m usually working with dogs.
I’m also looking forward to raising a few hogs and chickens again. I’ve lived in town for the past four years so I’m excited to be able to have livestock. My folks finish a few steers and lambs every year, so if I can raise the pork and chicken we’ll be in good shape."
What has surprised you the most with your new role so far?
"I would say that the primary challenges SCDs face are different than I expected. I’m used to teaching land management, so shifting to helping people work with people has been interesting. I’ve had to gain some new skillsets in this position, which has been challenging but fun."
The NDASCD thoroughly enjoys working with Aaron. We thank him for his continued efforts to strengthen the world of natural resources conservation and for his willingness to participate in this month's feature!
Do you know someone that represents natural resource conservation in an exemplary way? Send your submissions for them to be featured in our next NDASCD Spotlight! Submissions can be sent to email@example.com. There is no submission we will not consider!