James Pinsky: When conservation is wrong

James Pinsky

For nearly two years I have written about different ways we ought to conserve things.

Not today. No, today I will talk to you about the one thing on this planet I think we conserve too much.

By the time many of you will read this column, I will be in or out of surgery to repair a terrible neck injury that is causing me to lose strength and go numb by slowly pressing deeper into my spinal cord. Everyone, from the surgeon, to my friends, and my prayer groups, all are confident I’ll be fine. I think so too. Still, things happen we don’t plan for or count on.

I want to make sure – as dramatic as it may seem after the fact if all goes well, that what may be my last column isn’t conservative at all about the one thing that matters most.

So, with this being the Conservation Corner, I will do just that about the conservationists who matter the most in my life – the conservation specialists at the Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District.

You see, as clever and intelligent, and passionate as my columns can sometimes be, every single one of them exists because of the four greatest conservation colleagues I may ever know. And, if indeed this column is the last prose I wax from my desktop computer, then by God, let it be known just how much each one of them mattered to me and why. After all, if the worst thing possible happens, then they will know I cared – and if I am just fine, then I think people ought to know they matter when they do, and not when you or I don’t.

So, this week’s column is about Dana Gochenour, Alison Sloop, Sam Truban, and Nick Livesay and why they matter not just to me, but more importantly to conservation.

Like most success stories, the best place to begin is at the top. For us that’s our senior conservation specialist Dana Gochenour. This young lady is, in my humble opinion, who most little girls need to meet and emulate because she is equal parts engineer, farmer, diplomat, confidant, and den mother. I’ve watched her grow tremendously over the past two years and have no doubt she will run whatever business she so chooses with the kind of passion, precision and dignity every parent prays their child should have.

One office over sits Alison Sloop. Ali is probably the most well-rounded conservationist I have ever met. And, while a jack of all trades label fits her, this special lady is sure to be a master of most of the things she does, not none. One of my favorite things to do at the office is to drop by her desk just to see her wheels spinning as she learns, crafts, collaborates or achieves something remarkable for us. While I might have a gift for gab, it is Ali who has a gift for conservation, often generating pure genius in her ideas, her approaches and her successes. No matter how great I think something is, if I share it with Ali, she puts a spit shine of Sloop sparkle on it and then it’s truly special.

Next to Ali sits our newest employee, Nick Livesay. By far the tallest of our clan, I often wonder if the weather is different for him up there. Nick’s gifts to our team lend me to call him the professor. He has a way of teaching anyone and everyone about soils and natural resources that enables you to not just understand what he is saying but leave his lectures obsessed with knowing more. I know this because before Nick, my opinion of soils was as a necessary evil. Now, many columns later, you’ll see his influence in my writings and in my education program because he has a gift for teaching. I’ve learned to simply step aside for him, and while I know he enjoys his work, I can easily see him someday in the classroom every day.

Finally, the last conservation specialist on our technical team is Sam Truban. Now Sam is a busy man. Like most everyone else on the technical staff, he leads a full life outside the office as a farmer, landlord and loyal friend. What Sam did for me is simple. He taught me how to operate a tractor. Now, for most of you reading this it may seem like an easy thing to do, but rest assured, teaching a person like me, a man who has never farmed a day in his life, how to start, drive and run a real tractor is an accomplishment. But Sam didn’t stop there. You see, Sam’s unselfishness is unyielding. He spent hours helping me bush hog more than 60 acres of property in Warrenton simply because he knew I needed the help. He did it without me asking. He did it sometimes without me knowing. And he never asked for anything in return. Once he even drove two hours to Warrenton and changed a flat tractor tire for me.

Every one of the technical staff in our office says, does or emulates something remarkable daily. When it happens, I savor it. The truth is the biggest reason I like working at the Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District isn’t the money or the mission. It’s because of them. So, if this is to be my last column, then I want them to know just how remarkable and cherished their friendship is to me. Because the one thing I don’t ever want to be accused of being conservative about is telling people just how much they matter. After all, gratitude is a natural resource we can never deplete.

Thank you, Dana, Ali, Nick and Sam., I’m proud of you.

James Pinsky is the Education and Information Coordinator for the Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District.  Contact him at 540.465.2424, ext. 104, or james.pinsky@lfswcd.org.