WARSAW — Approximately 200 members of the community gathered early Tuesday morning, March 6, to have a hearty breakfast and hear reports from two experts in conservation at the Fourth Annual Barn and Business Breakfast, held at the Manahan Orthopaedic Capital Center in Winona Lake.
The event was coordinated by the Kosciusko Community Foundation and also featured members of several area high schools’ FFA chapters who greeted visitors at the door and sat at tables throughout the event.
Suzanne Light, executive director of Kosciusko Community Foundation, addressed the crowd at the opening of the event. She told the crowd that the subject matter and related speakers were scheduled per the request of past breakfast attendees.
“The event is an opportunity to serve by bringing together speakers to address topics that you told us were important to you,” Light said. “The second way this event helps us fulfill our mission is by allowing us to address community needs. Thank you for your willingness to participate in this important dialogue.”
Speakers for the event included Larry Clemens, North American Director of the Nature Conservancy, and Dr. Nate Bosch, from the Lilly Center for Lakes and Streams at Grace College.
Rob Parker, President and CEO of the Kosciusko Chamber of Commerce, introduced Clemens.
“This is an impressive gathering for sure,” said Clemens, a native of Argos. “I also appreciate being in here today and seeing all these FFA students.” Clemens said he was a member of the organization during his time at Argos High School and offered advice to the dark blue-jacketed students. “So, learn those lessons you’re being taught. The world is a huge place and there are all sorts of opportunities for you.”
Clemens said his organization is 65 years old and gave the audience surprising statistics, such as the fact that there will be an estimated 73 percent increase in animal protein needs worldwide from now until 2050 and that five crops — corn, soybeans, rice, sugar and wheat, make up 66 percent of the world’s caloric intake. Clemens told the audience that his organization takes a business-like approach to conservation, which he added affords him the ability to travel the country as part of his group’s mission.
“It’s really a joy because I get to learn about agriculture all over the whole country and finding those ways that agriculture co-exists with nature,” he said.
Bosch, introduced by KCF’s Stephanie Overbey, referred to the county’s lakes as being one of three of the area’s major drivers of the local economy.
“We have over 100 lakes,” he said. “We have the deepest, the biggest, we have 600 miles of streams, which includes the Tippecanoe River, and the Nature Conservancy considers that one of the top 10 rivers to be preserved.”
Bosch said the biggest threat to the health of local waterways is overgrowth of plants, which he said are growing strong because of an abundance of plant food.
“What’s growing those plants are nutrients,” he said. “They are coming from soil that’s eroding from construction sites, stream banks and agricultural fields.
To combat this, Bosch said conservationists and farmers collaborate to keep the nutrients and the soil where it belongs, on the farmers’ fields. This collaboration is vital since the speaker referred to agriculture as one of the other major economic drivers with 70 percent of the county involved in agriculture to an economic tune of $300 million annually.