• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Newby retiring from WCCD


Woodford County Conservation District operations manager Martha Newby has always taken pride in doing all she can to help local farmers, who appreciate her for devoting much of her life to the agricultural community. Over the last 46 years, Newby has become a familiar, smiling face that farmers and others in the community have come to know. "We need more people like that in this world - more Marthas," says Donald Mitchell. The longtime Woodford County Conservation District (WCCD) board member says Newby made everyone feel at home no matter how her day was going. "She's someone who's always a pleasure to work with," says Mitchell. And he knows Newby's smiling face and upbeat personality are going to be sorely missed. When asked what she'll miss most about coming to work every morning, and sometimes working late into the evening, Newby says, "The people. The farmers . Making sure that I could do all I can for them." Newby says she also appreciated being a part of a family at the Agricultural Resource Building. That's why "it's tough" for her to retire, but she knows it's time and that Jimmy Chambers will do "a great job," as her successor. Chambers had been a program assistant with the Woodford County Cooperative Extension Service before serving as a 4-H agent at the UT-Putman County Extension Office in Cookeville, Tenn. A reception to honor Newby for her years of dedicated service to the Woodford County Conservation District and local farmers will be held this afternoon, Thursday, July 28, from 4 to 6 in the Mackie Room at the Agricultural Resource Building in the Woodford County Park. 'Everyone knows Martha' The biggest project undertaken during Newby's tenure as WCCD operations manager happened 23 years ago when the Agriculture Resource Building was built. Bringing the Farm Service Agency, Cooperative Extension Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and other agencies to a single location offered more convenience for local farmers who need to access cost-share programs for their agricultural operations and other information. Harold Carmickle, who has been a Woodford County farmer his whole life and served on the WCCD board for many years, says Newby always had an answer - regardless of who was asking the question. "Martha got along with everyone," he says. Newby, whose last official workday is tomorrow, July 29, was only 19 and living on her family's Oregon Road farm when NRCS District Conservationist Stewart Calvert approached her about working part-time in the Woodford County Conservation District office, which was then located in the courthouse. Newby already knew she wasn't going to continue her studies at Midway College, but didn't know what she wanted to do with her life. So she agreed to give the part-time job at the WCCD office a try. Working with farmers and soil maps soon became something Newby enjoyed - and still enjoys. Farmers, Newby says, "have to be weathermen" and so much more to successfully grow the crops and raise the livestock that people rely on in their everyday lives. "Farmers feed the world," she says. Having learned many of those lessons from her dad at an early age on their family farm along Oregon Road, Newby says she has no plans to leave Woodford County because, "it's home. I was born and raised here." Growing up on an Oregon Road farm instilled in her a love and appreciation for farming that continued with her two-day-a-week job, which eventually grew into a fulltime career. Besides becoming one of the most respected Conservation District employees in the state and acquiring "a wealth of experience" over the last 46 years, farmer Donald Mitchell says, "everyone knows Martha and everyone likes Martha." Her personality and knowledge make the WCCD board's job "pretty easy," he says. The Woodford County Conservation District focuses on protecting and conserving soil and natural resources by overseeing a variety of local, state and federal programs that encourage local farmers to take care of the land, according to Mitchell. He says that focus has been broadened to include urban areas by offering free soil testing for neighborhood backyard gardeners. In addition to her responsibilities as WCCD operations manager, Newby handles maintenance issues as facility manager of the Agricultural Resource Building. Current maintenance projects include replacing two - possibly three - aging HVAC units and remodeling the Ag Resource Building's basement before the annual Woodford County Farm Tour's breakfast last Monday morning. Newby says she could not be happier with the new flooring that was installed by Woodford County Detention Center inmates, who also repainted walls and did woodwork as well. "She ran that place (the Agriculture Resource) like it was her own," says Carmickle. In 2006, Newby received the National Conservation District Professional Award and over the years has served in various roles on boards supporting her profession - making a lot of friends all across the country. She also volunteered for many years with the Woodford County Fair as well as being president of the Woodford County Homemakers and president of the Kentucky Basket Association, which she helped start. In retirement, Newby hopes to travel - Australia and New Zealand are on her bucket list - and do more basket-making. "It's just fun to do, and it's something not everyone does," says Martha. "It's a heritage craft.

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