Hannah Brenden wins 2011 Resource Conservation Speech Contest | TSLN.com

Hannah Brenden wins 2011 Resource Conservation Speech Contest

April 22, 2011 will mark Earth Day, and consumers across the nation will be reminded to reduce, reuse and recycle. For land owners and livestock producers, every day is Earth Day, and conservation, environmental stewardship and sustainability are all just part of the job.

Students from around South Dakota celebrated these environmental efforts at the 50th annual state finals of the 2011 Resource Conservation Speech Contest on April 2, 2011 at the State Capitol in Pierre, SD. Eleven students vied for the top scholarships and presented speeches fitting the 2011 contest theme, “Conserving Nature as I Walk in South Dakota.”

Hannah Brenden earned first place honors and a $1,100 scholarship. A junior at Aberdeen Central High School, Brenden talked about her family’s farm and homestead, where planting trees, terraced farming, conservation tilling and crop rotation are all important aspects of the operation.

“My grandpa worked for conservation all his life, and because of all of the land preservation acts employed by my ancestors, I will inherit a piece of paradise in Grant County,” closed Brenden in her speech. “I will be proud to pass this piece of paradise to my children and grandchildren, so when they walk through South Dakota, with its vast expanses and peaceful enclaves, they will see all the beauty that has surrounded me.”

Brenden’s take on the theme was just one of the unique ways students featured the importance of conservation.

“Each kid takes the theme and puts it together from a different perspective,” said Cec Johnson, who works for the South Dakota Department of Agriculture (SDDA) and coordinates of the event. “We try to keep the topic broad enough so that we don’t hear all the same speeches. A broad topic enables the kids to look at it from their own slant. One year a kid came and spoke from the perspective of a fish in the Missouri River and what he saw in the river. Using their imagination helps share the story conservation story.”

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For example, Tessa Stout, the second place winner and recipient of a $750 scholarship, spoke about her love of hunting, and how the trees planted by farmers and the man-made ponds provide shelter and water for more than just livestock, but wildlife, too. Stout is a sophomore at Kadoka Area High School.

Grace Chang received third place and a $450 scholarship. Chang is a senior at Lincoln High School, and her speech focused on ranchers Rick and Marlis Doud, who were awarded the 2010 Leopold Conservation Award by the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association and the Sand County Foundation.

“To get to the state competition, students first participated in a local contest sponsored by their conservation district,” Johnson explained. “Two students from each district were then eligible to participate in an area contest. The top two winners from each of the designated areas were eligible to advance to the State Finals.”

Scholarships totaling $2,300 for the winners were provided by Touchstone Energy Cooperatives of South Dakota. The contest is co-sponsored by the South Dakota Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the South Dakota Association of Conservation Districts.

The theme for next year’s contest is “75 Years of Conservation: What’s Next?” For more information, Johnson encourages students to contact their local conservation district office or South Dakota Department of Agriculture at 1-800-228-5254.

“We hope to raise awareness of the benefits of conservation in all walks of life,” said Johnson. “This year marks the 75th anniversary of the beginning of the soil conservation service, today’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). It’s important for today’s consumers, land owners and livestock producers to note that conservation benefits all of us, today and tomorrow. Land owners need to keep up with what’s going on in the world around them, incorporate current technologies into their management practices, and fit the things into the operation that can help them be sustainable for future generations.”

To qualify for this speech contest, students must be in grades 9-12. To receive scholarships, they must attend a South Dakota school for further education.

“Every year, it seems like the speeches get better and better,” said Johnson. “The kids do a good job of researching their topic. Now, we just need to get more kids involved.”

Conservation is a positive lesson for students to learn at a young age, and these lessons can help them become better stewards of the land down the road. Johnson hopes more students will take the opportunity to learn more about conservation and take part in this contest. F

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