February 27, 2024

2023 Conservationist of the Year

This year, the Warren County Soil and Water Conservation District is pleased to announce the 2023 Conservationist of the year!

Olga Vargas

Soil Scientist, USDA – NRCS

Identifying Layers in a Soil Pit

As one of the very few NRCS Soil Scientists in the state of NY, you could only imagine how long Olga’s “to do” list is… yet some how Olga always finds a way to carve out time for our soil health workshops, days of trace metal sampling, grant work, Farm Talks, presentations at SUNY Adirondack, and so on. Let’s not forget, she helps our helpless District crew crunch watershed soil data in GIS… which gets the job done perfectly, but usually leaves us more confused… but that’s a GIS thing.

The everyday work Olga performs is well above and beyond what is required, and she is always packed up and prepared for everything in her Subaru Outback, decked out with Star Wars stickers and tons of dirt… I mean soil samples and tools. When Olga rolls up to a field workshop, we gather all the students to help unload, carry gear, and setup the folding table for a hands on, knowledge packed presentation that will convert you to understanding and loving all things nerdy nerdy about soil science. You will also be leaving Olga’s workshop enthusiastic and ready to implement soil health practices with the education behind why your soils function and grow the way they do… and also dirty fingernails!

Olga has imparted tons of knowledge over the years to District staff, students and the farmers and gardeners of Warren County. She has also been an invaluable source of expertise in keeping our urban gardeners growing safe and healthy vegetables. Each year, Olga spends a day going around to each of our urban gardens and completing detailed trace metal sampling, followed by planning assistance to District staff for soil health projects to keep our gardeners growing high quality produce. We were also able to utilize the sampling data from Olga to acquire an urban ag grant for rebuilding an entire community garden.

During a presentation to the Department of Agriculture and Markets and professionals around NYS this year, I discussed the partnership and work we carry out with Olga, and I quickly realized this was a very unique collaboration, when I received 45 questions about our work together… the entire group only wanted to hear more about Olga’s work.

Our District is truly fortunate and extremely lucky to have Olga as a resource for Warren County. Of the dozen plus years working with Olga, my favorite quote is… “Don’t put your soil biology on a on six-month diet!”… this is in regard to leaving your farm soil plantless over winter.

This award is to honor a person who goes well above and beyond in the field of natural resource conservation, and Olga you are more than deserving of this award. Your passion and work ethic should be recognized more often, and I’m just jazzed to be able to give you this award!

Thank you for all that you do and congratulations Olga!