“The first office of the National Association of Soil Conservation Districts (NASCD) was located in the Montgomery Building on N. Church Street from 1946 to 1947. Soil conservation, with its focus on reducing flooding, became a nationwide effort during the Depression and gained additional funding and resources in the years just after World War II,” states the front of the 42-29 Historical Marker, directly across the street from its original site at the recently renovated Montgomery Building in downtown Spartanburg.
Even before then, soil conservation was happening in Spartanburg. In 1933, a demonstration site was set up in the South Tyger watershed, near Poplar Springs at the J.L. Berry farm. Due to erosion caused by the stormwater runoff channeled by field terraces, a huge (800-feet-long, 50-feet-wide, and 35-feet-deep) gully formed in under 10 years.
The eroded soil covered acres of cropland and clogged nearby streams. Newly commissioned, the Soil Erosion Service of the U.S. Department of the Interior paid its 75 workers 40 cents an hour to redirect water flow and mitigate almost a decade of destruction.
They had no guidebooks, only hand tools and basic knowledge of conservation.
Slowly, water was diverted, slopes decreased, trees were planted and the gully filled in. These pioneers in soil and water conservation created an understanding that erosion was something that could be fixed. Some of the practices they established have been expanded and are still used today. Our own Spartanburg Soil and Water Conservation District has its roots in Berry Gully.
Today, the goals of the Conservation District reflect those of the pioneers in conservation: "To promote the wise and responsible use of our natural resources through education, demonstration, and technical services for the benefit of all citizens of Spartanburg County.”
The activities of the District are designed to meet fundamental needs in our county while producing tangible benefits.
As in 1933, soil conservation is still vital to our community today. Soil and environmentally friendly No-Till Drilling is a healthier alternative to conventional tilling. Conventional tilling disrupts the top 6 to 10 inches of the soil, removing plant material and working it into the soil.
The resulting soil is not held together by roots and is prone to erosion. The practice of No-Till Drilling permits seeds to be planted without damaging soil structure, allowing the microorganisms to establish lasting communities that can cycle nutrients, hold soil together, retain moisture, and resist erosion. However, the purchase price for a No-Till Drill can be prohibitive.
The Spartanburg Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) has purchased and maintains two No-Till Drills that county residents can rent, allowing them to receive the benefits without the total cost of purchase.
Another piece of equipment that the SWCD has recently purchased and now has available for rent is a low-till Firminator. This machine is much smaller than the No-Till Drills and is designed to be pulled by an ATV. It is perfect for installing or upkeep of food plots or pollinator borders. The SWCD also promotes healthy soil through the payment of one soil analysis per residential address.
In Spartanburg County, we are fortunate to be near the top of our watershed. However, this doesn’t mean that we are immune to water-quality issues. The SWCD partners with the Watershed Ecology Center through the SC Adopt-A-Stream program where citizens can be certified to monitor streams in core water-quality indicators including temperature, dissolved oxygen, pH and bacteria.
Monitoring kits can cost a volunteer more than $1,000, but the SWCD provides the annual re-supply of chemicals and materials for two of the sponsored kits in the county.
Awareness is key in reducing water pollution. The SWCD attends and sponsors community events such as Discover Your Watershed and Sustainability Day.
Right now, for just a few more days (until July 4) the SWCD is seeking submissions for the 2022 Photo/Poster Contest, open to all K-12 students in the county, with cash prizes by grade group. Submission guidelines are listed on the website: SpartanburgSWCD.org.
Please join the SWCD in the wise and responsible use of our resources. For more information on the rental equipment or programs mentioned, please see our website or call 864-345-6787.
L. Beth Button is the coordinator for Spartanburg Soil and Water Conservation District.
This article originally appeared on Herald-Journal: Conservation Corner: Goals of Spartanburg Soil and Water Conservation District reflect pioneers