When you are the person responsible for the daily operations of a conservation program for over 30 years, it is sometimes hard to see the impact of your work on a daily basis. Crunching budget numbers, managing staff, coordinating programs and events, talking with county commissioners, assisting Soil and Water Conservation District board members, planning with the county engineer, the list goes on and on. It’s easy to see that when you are down in the weeds you might not always recognize the path your efforts have taken.
As Larry Ufferman has prepared the next administrator for the transition after his retirement later this week, I’m hopeful he has had an opportunity to reflect on his accomplishments over 31 years of guiding and directing this conservation program here in Delaware County.
Born and raised in Delaware County, Larry has seen its transformation from a quiet rural agricultural neighborhood into a dynamic, bustling community comprised of a mixture of rural/urban neighbors, each with their own unique resource-related problems.
He has helped mold the SWCD’s conservation program into one of the best in Ohio. Three times in his tenure, the SWCD has been selected a top Ohio Soil and Water Conservation District. Delaware SWCD consistently ranked “superior” in the Goodyear SWCD Awards program and was a state winner and/or “Honors District” 16 years in a row.
Responding to the beginning of dramatic county land use changes in the late 1980s, Larry partnered with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Ohio State University and Ohio Agriculture Research and Development Center to modernize the Delaware County soil survey in order to better meet the needs of local citizens and land use planners. The Delaware SWCD was one of the first in Ohio to produce a soil survey in digital format. Larry also saw the need to provide direct soil survey access via the internet. Early in 2000, the Delaware County Soil Survey was published on the SWCD website – a first in Ohio and the nation.
Larry was also actively involved in the establishment of the Upper Big Walnut Water Quality Partnership which was charged with bringing about water quality improvements in that watershed, an important source of raw drinking water for nearly three-quarters of a million people in Columbus.
When farmers and other landowners voiced concerns over deteriorating ditches and drainage outlets, Larry led the effort for the SWCD to partner with the Delaware County Engineer’s Office to create and manage a drainage maintenance program. He helped the program evolve to include maintenance of new subdivision storm water systems. This foresight will undoubtedly serve the county residents well as population projections indicate the county growth will be near an additional 100,000 people by 2040.
Larry’s leadership and guidance has been instrumental in building a strong program of conservation technical assistance, conservation education, and communications and outreach to support the local landowners. His many years of service continue to meet the SWCD’s mission to “Help You Help the Land.”
Larry can now relax, knowing the SWCD program is in good shape and in competent hands as Scott Stephens, long-term resource conservation program coordinator for the SWCD, becomes the new SWCD administrator next Monday.
When Larry first told me of his intentions to retire, I was concerned – not because of the continuation of the SWCD program, but for our competitive golf outings. You see, Larry and I play on the first-place team in a local golf league. I have been able to stay just slightly ahead of him throughout the season. I was worried that, once he retired, he would have all kinds of time to fine-tune his golf game. But then I realized that his wife, Debbie, has lots of activities for him on the farm as they continue to raise a bounty of fresh, wholesome produce for their customers. My edge in the golf league is safe for now!
Thanks, Larry — from board members, staff and Delaware County residents for a job well done “helping us help the land.”
Brad Ross is communications specialist at the Delaware Soil and Water Conservation District. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.