NRCS-Michigan Newsletter May-June 2022

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USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service

NRCS - Michigan Newsletter - May/June 2022

State Conservationist's Message

NRCS Michigan State Conservationist Garry Lee

Happy belated Independence Day to all of my fellow NRCS employees, conservation partners, and all of you supporting conservation. The Independence Day holiday is a good occasion to recognize the work done by so many to support our country, including those whose work is to conserve and protect our natural resources. As throughout our history, America faces many challenges, as long as there are dedicated people willing to take on these challenges, we will continue to overcome them. I hope all of you had an enjoyable and restful holiday.


As part of the USDA’s effort to support urban agriculture, we are in the process of opening two urban USDA offices in Michigan, the offices will be in Detroit and Grand Rapids. The 2018 Farm Bill established the Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production to better focus on the needs of urban farmers. NRCS leads the USDA-wide office, including representatives from other USDA agencies like Farm Service Agency.

Before establishing Michigan urban offices, we are hosting listening sessions where urban farmers can provide feedback on issues like the best location for an office and the services they most need from USDA. The first listening session was held at Detroit’s Eastern Market on June 29. Attendees formed breakout groups facilitated by NRCS, FSA staff as well as representatives from Keep Growing Detroit. Valuable feedback was provided which will help shape the location and services provided by our future Detroit location. Depending on availability of space and other needs, USDA intends to have the Michigan urban offices up and running in time for the 2023 growing season. Stay tuned.


NRCS staff facilitate at a public meeting at Detroit Eastern Market to collect input about a new USDA Urban Office in Detroit.

Soil Conservationists Shivonne Marshall (left) and Ashli Holloway (center) help facilitate at the urban agriculture listening session in Detroit.

Byelich "Witnessed Humanity" serving Ukranians in Poland

NRCS District Conservationist Boyd Byelich serves food to a Ukranian refugee while volunteering in Krakow, Poland in April.

Back in March, NRCS District Conservationist Boyd Byelich felt a “strong push” to help the people of Ukraine displaced by the Russian invasion of their country. After a period of feeling in poor health, Byelich was feeling better by the end of 2021, and he was convinced there was a reason.

He started contacting organizations assisting displaced Ukrainians but they were only interested in donations. “No one wanted warm bodies,” said Byelich. He refused to be deterred and reached out to contacts he’d made during his NRCS career who had international connections. His determination paid off when he was put in contact with International Bund, a German charity distributing clothing to displaced Ukrainians in Krakow, Poland.

Byelich arranged his own transportation to Krakow where an estimated 300,000 displaced Ukrainians were living, either in government shelters or private homes. He arrived in Poland on April 14, and found that the clothing distribution center where he was to volunteer was closed for four days for Easter. Nearby the clothing distribution center another aid organization, World Central Kitchen, was distributing meals to displaced Ukrainians. Byelich asked the kitchen’s Spanish head chef if they needed help, “Americans are good at grilling,” the chef said. Byelich was put to work grilling kielbasas. He grilled the sausages 80 at a time non-stop, interacting with hundreds and thousands of Ukranians.

Byelich went to work at the clothing distribution center when it reopened but continued volunteering at World Central Kitchen during some of his off hours. At the distribution center he started sorting clothing donated by local Poles. The clothing was then placed on racks like in a store where Ukrainians could pick out items at no cost. Many Ukrainians fled their country with nothing but a suitcase, said Byelich, and about 1,100 people came to the center every day to get clothing. An average of 9,000 items of clothing were given to the Ukrainians each day from the clothing center.

Between the clothing distribution center and the kitchen, Byelich got to know many Ukrainians, Poles, and international volunteers, sometimes using a translation app on his phone to communicate. “I fell in love with the people,” said Byelich. He estimated meeting volunteers from at least 20 different countries, most of them were working or visiting Poland before the war began. “I was most moved by the volunteers and the Polish people. I get choked up by all of the good things I witnessed.”

Byelich returned home on April 28, but the leading he felt has not gone away. He is collecting clothing and monetary donations to send clothing to the center in Poland. Gently used summer clothing and shoes, as well as new underwear and socks, for ages 2 and up are in the most demand now. He found a travel agency in Troy that will ship boxes of clothing to Poland at lower cost than commercial shipping companies, and has now sent 54 boxes of donated clothing, taking a load down every other week.

If you’d like to learn more about Byelich’s experience and continued efforts to provide support to displaced Ukrainians, you can visit the Facebook group he created “One Box for Ukraine.”


GLRI Funding Helps Dzurka Bros. Protect Bay

Chad Dzurka of Dzurka Brothers Farms near Pinconning

Dzurka Brothers Farms near Pinconning includes fields less that a quarter of a mile from the Saginaw Bay. They have implemented a variety of conservation practices utilizing funding provided through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. 

Cover crops and other practices are having a positive impact not only for the Bay, but their farming operation. Learn more...

Strong Michigan Contingent Attends National Planning Workshop

Attendees at  National Conservation Planning Training event held in Minnesota

Michigan was well represented at the National Conservation Planning Partnership (NCPP) training workshop held in Bloomington, Minn. in May. Nine conservation district employees from Michigan were among the 150 participants from 45 states, Puerto Rico and Guam. New conservation planning policies, planning tools, and communication skills were presented over the 3-day event.

“Conservation” can be defined as a careful preservation and protection of something. Although the definition doesn’t change, the conservation practices, policies, and the tools used in natural resource conservation are always evolving. Professional development and training workshops, such as this, are key in providing the most meaningful conservation planning services to landowners, land managers, and producers.

Conservation District specialists and technicians across the state are working towards becoming certified conservation planners. The process involves earning educational credits and developing a conservation plan to be reviewed by the Natural Resources Conservation Service.  

“New conservation planning processes and tools have been introduced over the last couple years. This training provided me with an opportunity to learn how to more effectively use them to help Shiawassee County residents plan for and protect our natural resources,” said SCD Conservation Specialist Donna Kanan.

Throughout the conservation planning process, planners work closely with landowners and land managers to ensure that their plan meets their individual needs. Oftentimes, conservation can be a time consuming and expensive process. Equipment availability, economic considerations, and timing are among the topics that need to be considered.

“The conference was a huge learning opportunity, not only from the training sessions, but from meeting with people across the country and learning what natural resource issues they are facing. I am excited to use this information and work alongside landowners to create conservation plans we are both proud of, which will provide benefits for them and future generations.” stated Colleen Gleason, SCD Watershed Technician.

All the NCPP partners (NRCS, NASCA, NCDEA, NARC&DC, and NACD) had leadership and participants attending the three-day training. The NCPP Leadership Team will continue to guide these efforts to strengthen conservation planning and technical assistance for the clients of conservation districts. Visit to learn more about NCPP’s efforts to reinvigorate conservation planning, resources, and to subscribe for direct email updates.


Meet Michigan's New Pollinator Partnership Liaison

Project Wingspan - Pollinator Partnership

Hello, my name is Connie Crancer. I am Pollinator Partnership's (P2) Michigan NRCS Pollinator Liaison and also serve as P2’s Michigan State Coordinator for Project Wingspan. I'm reaching out to introduce myself and to let you know that I am here to support NRCS, NRCS Partners, and the Farm Bill Conservation Programs as they relate to pollinators.

P2 has a partnership agreement with NRCS at the national level to provide part-time assistance with pollinator related goals. I work closely with NRCS State Biologist Barbara Scott to assist with pollinator conservation goals.

The intention of my position as P2’s NRCS Pollinator Liaison is to leverage my native plant and pollinator habitat knowledge and experience and to utilize my network of contacts to support NRCS pollinator objectives and help increase awareness and interest in Farm Bill pollinator conservation programs.

You can help me by contacting me with any pollinator outreach you are providing that I may assist you by way of sending notice of the event to my contacts or being a speaker or presenter.

You can further assist me by circulating the Project Wingspan Agricultural Lands Survey where survey participants get:
• Notification of relevant Project Wingspan pollinator habitat workshops and training.
• Access to a resource document outlining a variety of projects, organizations, funding pools, educational tools, and other resources in their state that can help them with their pollinator habitat plans.
• Assistance in getting connected with USDA Farm Bill Biologists, USFWS Private Lands Biologists, Bee Friendly Farming staff, and other natural resource professionals to discuss pollinator habitat options on your land (if desired).
• Consideration as a possible recipient site for free native plant seeds and/or plugs awards generated from the Project Wingspan effort in support of habitat enhancement or creation projects in 2023 (limited supplies available).

I look forward to  collaborating with you to provide support to your pollinator-related efforts.

Connie Crancer
Pollinator Partnership
MI NRCS Liaison & Project Wingspan State Coordinator


New Employees

District Conservationist Ryan Wysocki

Ryan Wysocki - District Conservationist, Gaylord

Last Position: Resource Conservationist, South Bend, Wash.
Home Town: Saline
Education: B.S. Natural Resource Management, Grand Valley State University
Family: Fiancé Jane
Hobbies & Interests: Traveling, hiking, snowboarding, clam digging, fishing, TV/movies, spending time with family and friends


Employee Updates

Nicholas Williams - Assistant State Conservationist for Program - East Lansing (formerly Resource Conservationist - Jackson, Miss.)

Tim Redder - RCPP Coordinator - East Lansing (formerly District Conservationist - Charlotte)

Conservation Calendar

Upcoming Events


11 - Pasture Walk Series, 6 to 8 p.m., Hinken Farms - Reed City, for more information call 231-465-8005 or email

11 - Compost, Manure & Mortality Field Day, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Twelve Oak Farm - Webberville, for more information go to

21 - Scrap Tire Collection Event, 3 to 7 p.m., Richland Township Office - Richland, for more information go to

24 - Public Tour of MSU Organic Farm, 1 to 2 p.m., Student Organic Farm - Holt, for more information go to

26 - Scrap Tire Collection Event, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Swan Park - Vicksburg, for more information go to


15 - Pasture Walk Series, 6 to 8 p.m., Mitchell Cat Creek Farms - Hersey, for more information call 231-465-8005 or email

16&17 - AgroExpo, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., North Central Research Station - St. Johns, for more information go to

18 - Cultivating Resilience - Farm Field Day, 8 a.m. to 2:45 p.m., Shady Side Farm - Holland, for more information and to register go to

20 - Public Tour of MSU Organic Farm, 1 to 2 p.m., Student Organic Farm - Holt, for more information go to


Natural Resources Conservation Service - Michigan

State Office
3001 Coolidge Road, Suite 250
East Lansing, MI 48823

Phone: 517-324-5270

Michigan Field Office Directory