Agricultural & Environmental Conservation Specialist & Nursery Manager
Essex County Natural Resources Conservation District
Brunswick, VT 05905
Job Title: Agricultural & Environmental Conservation Specialist & Nursery Manager
Organization: Essex County Natural Resources Conservation District
Location: Hybrid – Based at the Nulhegan Basin Silvio O. Conte Wildlife Refuge in Brunswick, VT with travel around Essex County, VT, and telework as work responsibilities allow
Hours: Full-time, 32-40 hours/week
Ideal Start Date: Approximately 4/10/23 (Pass of Federal Background check)
Essex County NRCD seeks a Conservation Specialist & Nursery Manager to be based out of our office in Brunswick, Vermont who is self-motivated, organized, creative, and excited to build community with agricultural producers and conservation organizations in Essex County. Half of the position will focus on carrying out Essex County NRCD’s agricultural programming, and the other half will be devoted to managing the District’s conservation nursery. The ideal candidate will be motivated to take on the strategic and financial planning of these two District programs over time, with support and training from the District Manager.
Half of this position will focus on general agricultural outreach, education, and technical assistance in Essex County, funded primarily through a grant with the State of Vermont and other, smaller grants. You will work one-on-one and in group settings with District farmers to maintain nutrient management plans (NMPs), collect soil, manure, and crop samples, plan educational workshops, and help farmers apply for state and federal cost share programs. Job duties will also include participation in general District programs and outreach activities. This position is grant-funded and is under the general supervision of the ECNRCD District Manager. For the right candidate, the expectation is that eventually this position will have broad latitude to direct ECNRCD’s agricultural programming in response to available funding and the needs of local producers, with support and input from the District Manager.
The other half of this position will focus on managing ECNRCD’s conservation nursery. You will work to grow seedlings from seed to harvest, maintain nursery facilities, fulfill tree orders, and expand the nursery’s capacity for tree output. You will work with a group of local and statewide organizations to ensure tree production meets restoration and agroforestry needs. Training in nursery management will be available for motivated candidates. This position is grant funded for four years, with the intention that it will be supported by tree sales after that time. The ideal candidate will be interested in taking on the financial management of the nursery in addition to physical duties of tree production.
This position includes a seasonal mix of computer-based and field work. Computer work may include long periods sitting, typing, and reading from a computer screen, while field work may include extended periods of physical exertion.
Who We Are
The Essex County Natural Resources Conservation District (ECNRCD) was established in 1946, after Vermont passed the Soil Conservation Act, with an original purpose to drive locally-led voluntary conservation through contacts with farmers. In 1968, the Vermont State Legislature amended the Soil Conservation Act, broadening our scope to conserve all natural resources. The mission of ECNRCD is to sponsor and coordinate technical and financial assistance to address issues relating to water quality, stormwater runoff, erosion, soil quality, watershed planning, and conservation education. ECNRCD is an independent, non-regulatory municipal sub-division of state government, governed by a Board of Supervisors. We are served by two leadership entities, the State Natural Resources Conservation Council (NRCC) and the Vermont Association of Conservation Districts (VACD).
Conservation Districts function much like non-profits, which means that landowner engagement with the District is voluntary and incentive-based. The Essex County NRCD works closely with all Conservation Districts in the state to collaborate, share resources, and provide continuity of services. We also work closely with many other partners, including the VT Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets (VAAFM), USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), UVM Extension, US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS), VT Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), VT Fish & Wildlife Department (VFWD) and others. Conservation Districts receive a small amount of operational funding from the State of Vermont, but primarily support their work through securing project grants and program funding.
Experience in environmental science, natural resource management, or agriculture and at least three years of work experience is required. You must have a basic understanding of agronomic principles; specific familiarity with livestock or nursery management is a plus. You must have strong and consistent communication skills in a variety of settings, the desire to build relationships with land users and partners to improve natural resource management in the county, and the ability to understand, communicate, and work within federal and state guidance.
You should be willing to travel throughout Essex County and be willing to work very occasional evenings and weekends. Access to a District vehicle will be provided to candidates with a clean driving record; some travel will be required in a personal vehicle and will be reimbursed at the federal mileage rate. This position will have an assigned desk, phone, and laptop computer at the USFWS Refuge Office in Brunswick, VT, but remote work will be possible when it does not conflict with assigned duties.
It is essential for the person occupying this position to pass a low-level federal security check to be able to access the USFWS office.
ECNRCD Agricultural Programming (40% of time)
ECNRCD’s agricultural programming is primarily funded through the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets water quality division. You will:
- Provide administrative and technical assistance to farms in developing and updating GoCrop nutrient management plans
- Conduct testing to inform farm nutrient management decisions, including soil, manure, pre-sidedress soil nitrate, and corn stalk nitrate testing
- Provide education about nutrient management practices that will improve water quality, and help producers implement those practices – i.e. crop/nutrient record-keeping, feed management, and manure management practices
- Develop outreach methods and materials – i.e. workshops, field days, publications, newsletters, flyers, press releases – to inform producers of best management practices and District programs
- Plan and host events relating to or advancing agricultural water quality and provide forums for information exchange between producers
- Assist farmers with navigating various technical and financial assistance programs; assistance may include identifying resource concerns on individual farms, sending out notifications of programs and deadlines, assisting with grant applications, and coordinating multiple partners and contractors who may be involved in a project
- Participate in regional coordination meetings related to agriculture and collaborate regularly with partner staff
- Work with the District Manager to develop, expand, and diversify relevant agricultural services to better serve more Essex County farmers; future work could include aerial drone services, agroforestry practices, and programs for maple, Christmas tree, diversified, and forest products producers
- A wide range of training opportunities from District staff and partners will be available for expanding your skillset to meet District needs, including NRCS Conservation Planner training
ECNRCD Conservation Nursery Management (40% of time)
Working in conjunction with a network of partners, you will take responsibility for expanding ECNRCD’s nursery to meet local and statewide restoration needs. Initially, nursery work will be grant-funded, with the intention that it will become self-sufficient through tree sales over time. You will be working closely with partners at Vermont Fish & Wildlife, NorthWoods Stewardship Center, and the Intervale Conservation Nursery to optimize tree production. You will:
- Conduct routine tree cultivation, including soil nutrient management, starting seeds, planting starts, weeding, tree inventory, and harvest to fulfill tree orders from partner organizations
- Install and maintain nursery infrastructure, including irrigation, fencing, and equipment
- Coordinate with partners to optimize production practices to meet demand, including field layout, soil characteristics, starting techniques, species selection, needed infrastructure, and maintenance of genetic diversity
- Pursue grants as needed to expand nursery capacity
- Track costs of tree production to determine pricing and budget for long-term financial self-sufficiency of the nursery
- Make strategic decisions to cater nursery production to local needs, e.g. stock for agroforestry practices, native perennial cultivation, sales to the broader community
General Programming (approximately 20% of time)
This position will participate in other District activities, as needed. You might:
- Conduct public outreach through the District website, social media pages, quarterly newsletter, and other educational materials about District programs and conservation topics
- Conduct outreach activities to increase landowner and citizen participation in conservation. This may include presentations to community groups, hosting workshops, writing press releases, and coordinating demonstration projects or tours
- Assist in other District programs, including lakeshore, streambank, and wetlands restoration, road and stormwater infrastructure technical assistance, natural resource concern evaluation, and project development
- Basic knowledge of agronomic principles, including knowledge of soils and cultural practices of Vermont farmers, such as crop production, crop rotation, and nutrient applications
- Relevant project management experience including budget and work plan development, deliverables and cost tracking
- Commitment to thorough and high-quality work, but also ability to manage many projects, initiatives, and working relationships simultaneously
- Can independently set work priorities, manage time effectively, and complete program deliverables on time
- Able to anticipate and identify obstacles and create solutions
- Comfortable with public outreach and skilled at organizing, planning, and presenting to citizen groups, organizations, and committees
- Working knowledge of water quality concerns, non-point source pollution, and remediation strategies
- Familiarity with state, federal, and NGO agricultural assistance and conservation programs
- Experience with Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Global Position Systems (GPS) programs
- Fluency in basic computer programs and ability to quickly learn new software
ESSEX COUNTY NRCD IS AN EQUAL OPPORTUNITY EMPLOYER. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), marital status, status with regard to public assistance, membership or activity in a local human rights commission, protected veteran status, disability, age (40 or older), political affiliation, and genetic information.
Wages and Benefits
This position is currently funded for full-time, 32-40 hours per week. This is an at-will, non-salaried position starting at $22 per hour with room to increase for the right candidate. Benefits include paid federal holidays, annual, and sick leave, and generous flexibility.
How to Apply: Email cover letter and resume as a single PDF to email@example.com. All applications submitted before March 24th will be considered, with later applications considered on a rolling basis. Interviews anticipated to be held in March 2023. Only digital applications will be accepted without prior arrangements.