The Montgomery County Soil and Water Conservation District and one local farm family have earned statewide recognition for their efforts to improve the environment and educate others.
The MCSWCD was recognized Wednesday as a recipient of the 2023 District Showcase Award from the Indiana Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts. Cain’s Homelike Farms also was named the 2023 Conservation Farmer of the Year by the same organization.
Staff from the MCSWCD were joined by local board members and program partners, county officials and state conservation representatives at the Fusion 54 building to celebrate.
The District Showcase Award is an annual statewide award that highlights a successful soil and water district. It was given to the MCSWCD in recognition for initiating many new programs, making new connections and partnerships and gaining the support of the Montgomery County Council to add the program coordinator’s salary to the county budget.
Kristin Latzke, conservation director for the MCSWCD, said this is the first time the county has received the honor.
Liz Rice, executive director for the IASWCD, said the recognition was earned because of the community involvement the district has developed.
“They are able, through their network, through their passion and through their knowledge to connect with everybody from urban producers and small backyard growers to folks with hundreds of acres of row crops and engage them in conservation at all levels,” Rice said.
The MCSWCD will be recognized in January at the annual IASWCD conference in Indianapolis. The Cain family also will receive recognition at the conference.
“Kenny is a farmer who exemplifies the definition of stewardship,” Rice said. “His passion for the protection of soil and wildlife is absolutely contagious. Cain’s Homelike Farms demonstrates decades of conservation practices ... and his family’s commitment to the education of others is exemplified in the annual hosting of the Fourth Grade Field Days.”
Fourth Grade Field Days is two-day event that welcomes students to the family’s farm near Darlington to learn about various aspects of soil and water conservation and farming practices. This year marked the event’s 25th anniversary.
“Kenny’s leadership in many various conservation organizations illustrates his earnest dedication to the next generation,” Rice added. “It’s one thing to put conservation on your land and do the things you believe in, it’s another to take risks and educate, evangelize and inspire others.”
A surprised and humbled Kenny Cain thanked everyone for the recognition.
“It’s not really about Cain Farms, it’s about the resources and the Cains have always tried to be an example of doing the right thing,” he said.
Cain and his family are standing on the shoulders of the four generations that came before them.
“It started when great-grandfather Thomas came here from Ireland and he knew the right thing to do was to take care of the soil,” he said.
Today, Cain looks forward to the fifth generation, which includes his son and nephews, to carry on that legacy and stewardship.
Cain stressed that the relationship between the agricultural community and the MCSWCD is paramount.
“It’s all about what we can do as a district,” he said. “I’m proud to be a part of it ... and the evolution of that.”
All of the presenters who spoke during the showcase event stressed the importance of not taking soil and water for granted.
“If you start looking at our resources and the availability of them, you will see they have changed or how we’ve polluted them or we’ve degraded them over time or over generations,” Rice said. “You will quickly realize it is now incumbent upon us to invest in cleaning up our water and restoring our soil. With climate change coming down, we all have to understand a little bit of the science in order to be a part of the solution.”