History and Recognition

Hugh Hammond BennetSoil and Water Conservation Districts have their roots in the dust bowl and in the person of Hugh Hammond Bennett, a visionary soil scientist and NC native. Hugh Hammond Bennett recognized the destructive dust storms rolling across our nation in the 1930's were a result of poor farming practices that left soil bare and exposed to the wind. He conducted research, published articles, and spoke before Congress to bring awareness to the issue, spearheading the establishment of the US Department of Agriculture Soil Conservation Service (Natural Resource Conservation Service) and the locally-led entities now know as Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs).

NC has the distinction of being home to the nation's first SWCD. Brown Creek SWCD was established in nearby Anson County in 1937, birthplace of Hugh Hammond Bennett. At the time, Brown Creek was a multi-county district that included Cabarrus County. In 1963, Cabarrus SWCD was established.

Recognition of outstanding efforts is an important way that the district seeks to encourage conservation. In 1999, the National Teacher of the Year award for conservation education went to Dianne Hudson, a teacher at Mount Pleasant Elementary School. Also in 1999, the NC Conservation Farm Family award went to the Thomas E. Porter family of Mount Pleasant. In 2007, District Board Member Ned Hudson was elected president of the North Carolina Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts. In 2012, Vicky Porter was appointed Chair of the NC Soil and Water Conservation Commission. Most recently, in 2016 Daniel McClellan received the Outstanding Technical Employee of the Year award.

In all cases, these outstanding accomplishments were the culmination of a conservation planning process that extended over a number of years.

Photo caption: Hugh Hammond Bennett (right) assists a farmer with conservation practices. Photo courtesy of USDA NRCS.