Daniel Horne has served with the United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) for 13 years, the first three as a soil conservationist, and the last 11 as the district conservationist over Hancock and Hawkins Counties. NRCS provides technical and other support to farmers and private landowners and managers who wish to improve, protect and conserve natural resources on their lands. He has worked closely with Clinch-Powell since the very beginning, when he partnered with our Land Protection Specialist, Ronald Lambert, on a number of conservation projects. For the last 11 years, has been a site supervisor for AmeriCorps members placed with the soil conservation district through our Appalachia CARES program.
Appalachia CARES is a community-based program in which members engage in direct service with youth, students, adults and volunteers across Middle and East Tennessee in partnership with community-based organizations and local agencies. The overall goal of the program is to impact the community through service-learning, but its benefits extend to the member and service site as well. AmeriCorps members gain valuable career and leadership experience, similar to an internship in some ways, but with the added bonus of a living allowance and an educational award they can apply toward school or student loans. This unique partnership also allows service sites to increase capacity for current services or implement new programs in an affordable way.
Daniel has supervised nine Appalachia CARES AmeriCorps members over the past 11 years. In addition to implementing service-learning projects, they assist with processing applications and providing education about NRCS programs and natural resource conservation to the community. He says, “the AmeriCorps members are a crucial part of our team that all work together to provide the customer service. We have been averaging between 100 and 150 program applications for several years.” Educational projects include hosting farm tours, working on the Farmer of the Year Awards, and partnering with Rural Development, the Tennessee Valley Authority and Holston Electric Cooperative to conduct public energy efficiency meetings..
Daniel and his NRCS team still partner with Clinch-Powell in land and water conservation efforts as well. Most recently we have partnered with NRCS to provide grant-funded assistance for livestock operations, with an emphasis on limiting access to streams and providing alternative water systems. Most of the projects include grazing systems with cross fencing to improve soil health, reduce hay needed, reduce soil erosion, increase water infiltration, and reduce potential non-point source pollutants from entering the streams that are in the Clinch and Powell River Watersheds. For the 2017-2018 contracts in Hancock Co. alone, more than $600,000 in grant funds has been allocated to provide assistance on over 1,800 acres of farmland.
The common goals shared between Clinch-Powell and NRCS have made this an ideal partnership in conservation programs and the Appalachia CARES AmeriCorps program, allowing both agencies to better meet community and environmental needs.