Help from the ground up

Published 2:35 pm Friday, March 16, 2018

The monthly Bell County Fiscal Court meeting is not just a time to check off the usual business. It is also an open forum for the public and a place where local people and organizations can come to speak on any topic they feel is pertinent. In addition, they may share appreciation and spread awareness of the services provided to the community.

During the March 13 meeting, David Thompson of the Bell County Soil Conservation District took the opportunity to give a general overview of what his organization does for the community and what the funds allocated to them by the court have allowed them to do.

“The money the fiscal court gives us each year is returned back to the community in many ways,” said Thompson.

The Soil Conservation District provides grants for local landowners; some are even given to help install septic systems when resources allow them to do so. They have also helped send the county’s children to summer camps. In addition, there are various programs on different topics available through the state that the BCSCD uses to educate local farmers as well as the general public.

This past year, Thompson said that the district has helped local farmers with $9,000 worth of cost-share assistance. It’s a matching grant, for which the farmer puts in $500 and the BCSCD does the same. The farmers have to pass a soil test to get approved.

Also last year, he said the district had 174 students in Bell County enter the Jim Claypool Art and Writing Contest. This contest has been around for decades and teaches kids about soil, wildlife conservation and forestry. With the money provided by the fiscal court, the conservation district supplied resources to students. The first place winners received $25 and a T-shirt.

Every year, with the help of the local Farm Bureau, the BCSCD provides tree grafting exercises for 300 kids. Tree grafting is the art of combining the tissues of different plants so they can grow together as one.

There is also an annual tree giveaway the district and its partners execute, during which they usually give away over 1,000 trees. This year’s giveaway will be April 19 at the Middlesboro Mall from 10 a.m. – noon.

Thompson said that this past year the Soil Conservation District has helped the public with projects totalling over $82,000.