Who is the Jasper County SWCD?

In Indiana, a soil and water conservation district (SWCD) is a unit of state government responsible for soil and water conservation programs within its county boundaries. The district provides a means for all interested people in a county to work together for natural resource conservation and development. It is funded through a variety of sources including county and state appropriations, activities, grants, and private donations.  There is a district office in each county in Indiana. The SWCD belongs to the Indiana Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts and they provide more information on the partnerships needed to be successful in conserving our natural resources.

The official governing body of the SWCD consists of five supervisors. Three are elected (one each year for a three-year term) at an annual meeting of land occupiers held in January or February. Two are appointed (also for staggered three-year terms) by the State Soil Conservation Board based upon recommendations of the leadership in the district. Thus, selection of all five supervisors is based on input from the local people they serve.

Identifying local resource concerns and addressing the needs of the community is a priority for the Jasper County SWCD. This is accomplished by conducting community meetings with the residents who best know the natural resource problems. After priorities are established the district looks for ways in which to address the problems. This may involve developing educational programs or applying for funding to implement conservation practices on private lands.  

Promoting a Healthy Environment by...

  • Providing assistance to local residents for reducing soil erosion, conserving and protecting water quality, and solving other natural resource problems. 
  • Working directly with private landowners and residents, the district coordinates technical assistance to develop plans uniquely suited to their resource concerns.
  • Providing information and education outreach to youth and adults, encouraging good stewardship of our natural resources. 

Contact the Jasper County SWCD office for more information.

SWCD Board Meetings  

Are held the fourth Friday of each month at 8:00 a.m. at the USDA Service Center, 211 East Drexel Parkway in Rensselaer. The public is welcome and encouraged to attend.  Due to conflicting schedules, the meeting date does occasionally change.  Check with our office to confirm.

SWCD Supervisors & Office Personnel

SWCD Supervisors
ChairmanKyler Laird
Vice-ChairmanLana Zimmer
MemberDerek Luchik
Member Mark Jordan
MemberMark Kingma
SWCD Staff
Leslie Davisson, Asst. District Director/Treasurerleslie.davisson@in.nacdnet.net
Daniel Perkins, District Director/Conservation Programs Specialistdaniel.perkins@in.nacdnet.net
Carolyn Ahler, Watershed Outreach Coordinatorcarolyn.ahler@in.nacdnet.net
USDA NRCS Staff
Kevin Shide, District Conservationistkevin.shide@in.usda.gov
219-866-8554 x120
Indiana State Department of Agriculture Staff
Jared O'Brien, Resource Specialistjobrien1@isda.in.gov
Conservation Implementation Team
Team LeaderRuth Montgomery
Civil Engineer TechnicianMichaela Stout
Civil Engineer TechnicianDieter Markland
Civil Engineer TechnicianRyan Leazenby
Civil Engineer TechnicianTodd Bisner
Soil ConservationistRandy Dickson

Jasper County Soil & Water Conservation District

Dan Perkins is the Watershed and Conservation District Director for the Jasper County Soil and Water Conservation District.  He is also a Certified Crop Advisor (CCA) and the co-owner of Perkins’ Good Earth Farm.  Dan is known in NW Indiana as the “Cover Crop Guy”.  He lives with his wife, Julie, and their two children in DeMotte.

Leslie Davisson is the Assistant District Director for the Jasper County Soil and Water Conservation District.  Her primary duties are to assist the District Director in accomplishing the goals of the district and to handle the financials for the district, as well as administer and seek grants.  She lives with her husband, Mark, and their three children in Rensselaer.

Carolyn Ahler is the Watershed Outreach Coordinator for the Jasper County Soil and Water Conservation District and the Upper Iroquois Watershed Initiative, which is a joint venture of the Jasper County and Newton County Soil and Water Conservation Districts. Carolyn updates our Facebook and Twitter accounts as well as manages the Upper Iroquois Watershed Initiative website (www.iroquoiswatershed.com). She writes a bi-monthly column for the Rensselaer Republican and the KV Post called “Conservation Counts” to spread awareness of what our office does and how to community can get involved in our efforts. Carolyn coordinates meetings and outreach events and assists Dan Perkins, Leslie Davisson, and Rose Morgan (Newton County SWCD) whenever possible. She lives in Jasper County with her husband Jacob. 

Kyler Laird was raised on a small grain farm southwest of Rensselaer. His father was an early no-till adopter so Kyler’s farming experience has only included a few years of disking. Kyler farmed with his father and grandfather but his involvement decreased when he moved to West Lafayette in 1987 to attend Purdue, earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science and then a Master’s Degree in Agricultural Systems Management. He’s especially interested in remote sensing and robotic field equipment.

Kyler worked full-time for Purdue’s Engineering Computer Network for ten years and for the School of Engineering at the University of California Merced for ten years. He continues to work full-time for UCM but returned to Rensselaer in 2009 to more closely manage his family’s assets. The family’s 2200 acres of farmland is now all no-till.

Kyler’s interest in the SWCD increased as a result of research in to no-till organic farm practices. In 2010 he joined the Upper Iroquois Watershed Initiative steering committee and served as chairman of the Outdoor Recreation working group. In 2011 he had oilseed radishes and crimson clover flown onto 160 acres and then drilled almost 40 acres of rye. He is working with the SWCD on a CRP plan for a field that borders Carpenter Creek.

Kyler wants to use his background in technology and industrial farming to help the Board pursue conservation efforts that are both effective and economical. Kyler also serves on the board of the Rensselaer Chamber of Commerce and is interested in commercial opportunities which might result from conservation efforts, especially those involving the Iroquois River.

Lana Zimmer is a lifelong resident of Jasper County. Lana resides with her husband Tom on the family farm in Jordan Township along the Iroquois River where they have restored a small tall grass prairie and are growing organic specialty crops. She has been actively involved with our SWCD since 2003 and focuses her efforts primarily on attaining grants for conservation projects. Lana is currently an associate professor at Saint Joseph’s College where she teaches in the Education Division specializing in science education. Her primary interests include sustainability education, sustainable agriculture, and place-based, experiential learning. Since 2011, Dr. Zimmer has been awarded numerous grants to develop the Saint Joseph’s College Student Farm. Projects include the Community Learning Garden, a fruit and nut orchard, and the Hoophouse Farming Eduventure, which is a start-up business operated by students that grows vegetables year-round in a seasonal high tunnel. These projects serve as experiential learning for teacher educators and other students, while providing fresh, organically grown food to the campus community and Good Samaritan Food Pantry. Lana has broad knowledge and experience in many conservation practices, and hopes to continue to bring awareness to the community about the many ways individuals can help protect and preserve the quality of our soil and water while at the same time sustaining economic development.

Mark Kingma is a lifelong resident of Jasper County.  He has been married to his wife, Linda, for 34 years and enjoys spending time on the water, particularly Lake Michigan.  He also manages to get on the golf course on occasion. In addition to farming, Mr. Kingma is a seed corn sales representative for Asgrow/Dekalb and has served on the Jasper County Farm Bureau board for 6 years.  He has been implementing various conservation practices on his fields for many years including no-till, cover crops, and buffer strips.

Mark Jordan has lived the majority of his life in Jasper County.  He was born and raised on the family farm growing corn, soybeans, hay, & purebred beef cattle.  He left Jasper County to attend Purdue University where he received a B.S. in Agricultural Engineering.  Mark’s 20yr engineering career started at John Deere in Ottumwa, IA.  He then spent 8yrs working for FMC on specialty vegetable harvesters in Hoopeston, IL. He wrapped up his engineering career with 9yrs at Caterpillar in Lafayette, as Engineering Manager of core engine components.  Mark served on Purdue’s Engineering Alumni Board as Vice President and currently serves on the Jasper County 4H Council.  He is also participating in the Leadership Jasper County Purdue Extension program.

He and his wife, Heidi, have three children and have since moved back to Rensselaer to help manage the family farm. They have implemented many conservation practices into their farm management program, such as filter strips, cover crops, no-till, grassed waterways, windbreaks, and conservation grazing methods.  Mark enjoys many outdoor activities with his family including camping, downhill skiing, and 4H.

Derek Luchik lives in Wheatfield, IN and works for The Nature Conservancy as a professional Land Steward. In that role, he manages about 2,000 acres of property throughout a good portion of Northwest Indiana, but spends most of his time in Jasper County. He graduated from Purdue University in May of 2012 with a degree in Forestry. Derek has a heightened interest in natural areas conservation & restoration, sustainability, land use history and natural history. Some of his hobbies include photography, hiking, camping, woodworking, and reading in the evenings. He hopes to bring valued knowledge to the board while learning a lot about the collaborative efforts for soil and water conservation in Jasper County and Indiana.

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