Soil & Water Conservation District

Ag Literacy Day
Pictured above are Program Assistant, Courtney Murphy, and Soil Conservationist, Jedediah Dunn, reading to students about Florida Vegetables.
OSWCD Employees
Pictured are OSWCD Employees. From left to right, Ashley Avant, Courtney Murphy, Mikayla Allison, and Audrey Kuipers.
Unlock Your Farm's Potential
Pictured are employees from various agencies attending a soil health training. From left to right, Clarence Morgan, Howard Harrison, Jedediah Dunn, Carlos Torres, Maelo Reyes, and Audrey Kuipers.


JOB ANNOUNCEMENT – The Okeechobee Soil and Water Conservation District has two vacant positions. To learn more, please click here Employment Opportunities .

The November 13th board meeting has been canceled. The next meeting is scheduled for December 11th, 2019 at 1:00 PM.





Audrey Kuipers, Program Manager
Courtney Murphy, Program Assistant
Vacant, Conservation Technician
Vacant, Conservation Technician


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Board Members

Mariano Corona, Chairman
Nicki Smith
Don Sellers, Jr.
Douglas Burnham
Glynn Rutledge, Secretary/Treasurer


Pictured above from left to right board members, Douglas Burnham, Glynn Rutledge, Donald Sellers. Mariano Corona.

Pictured are OSWCD Board members. From left to right, Doulgas Burnham, Glynn Rutledge, Donald Sellers, Mariano Corona, and Nicki Smith.

What We Do


Established by the Florida Legislature, the Okeechobee Soil & Water Conservation District was established October 9, 1950 under Florida Statutes 582. OSWCD is a governmental subdivision of the State of Florida created by local residents for the purpose of promoting and encouraging the wise use, management and general conservation of the County’s soil, water and related natural resources. The District is committed to preserving and enhancing the quality of life in Okeechobee County through conservation of its natural resources. Soil and Water Conservation Districts are non-taxing and are supported by maintaining relationships and partnership with other government agencies.

The Okeechobee Soil & Water Conservation District works closely with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Florida Department of Agricultural Services, creating ways to conserve water, prevent soil erosion, convert irrigation systems and inform the public about conservation problems.


Mission Statement

As an agency of the State, the Okeechobee Soil and Water Conservation District is responsible for developing and carrying out locally-led programs for the conservation, protection, and development or soil, water, and land for agricultural purposes. 

Service Area

There are 58 Soil and Water Conservation Districts in Florida, all organized by local constituents for the purpose of promoting and encouraging the wise use, management and general conservation of soil, water, and related natural resources.



Services Provided

  • Provide technical assistance with conservation planning and best management practice implementation.
  • Partner with state and federal governments to provide environmental incentive programs to landowners.
  • Administer funds for the State of Florida.
  • Educate youth through various programs including the district speech and poster contest, land judging competition, Envirothon competition, and Ag-Venture program.
  • Provide educator grants available to public, private, and home school educators interested in implementing soil and water conservation programs in their classrooms. 
  • Educate the public through environmental/agricultural presentations.
  • Serve as the FWC monofilament recovery and recycling program coordinator for Okeechobee. Bins have been placed throughout the county to collect line and keep it out of our waterways. Collected line is sent off to Berkley-Pure Fishing for recycling into tackle boxes, toys, and other products.


Educational Programs

The Okeechobee Soil and Water Conservation District is involved in a number of educational programs. 

Poster Contest


  • The Okeechobee Soil and Water Conservation District Poster Contest is open to Okeechobee County students (public, private or home educated) grades kindergarten through grade twelfth.

Contest Rules

  • Any media may be used to create a flat or two-dimensional effect (paint, crayon, colored pencil, charcoal, stickers, paper or other materials on regular posters).
  • Poster size must be between 8.5”x11” and 22”x28”.
  • Posters should be packaged so they remain flat when submitted to OSWCD.
  • All posters must be created by an individual student rather than a team of students.
  • The theme: “Where would we BEE without pollinators?” should be incorporated in the artwork.
  • Each entry must have a signed entry form affixed to back of poster to be eligible for judging.
  • Although younger students will most likely receive help in planning from parents or teachers, OSWCD encourages each student to do as much work as possible by him/herself Entries completed by students in their handwriting and coloring will score better than those designed, drawn and colored by adult assistance.

Poster Evaluations

  • Conservation message (50 percent)
  • Visual effectiveness (30 percent)
  • Originality (10 percent)
  • Universal appeal (10 percent)
  • Also taken into consideration, artwork on poster is that of participant (unless noted on entry form)

Prize Levels

  • Poster Categories:  K-1; 2-3; 4-6; 7-9; 10-12
  • 1st -$30; 2nd -$20; 3rd- $10 in each category
  • Winners at local level with advance to the Area IV contest, with a chance of advancing to the state contest.

Linked below is a PDF of the complete list of rules and the entry form.

Entry Form

Poster Contest Flier and Rules

Speech Contest

Okeechobee County Soil and Water Conservation District sponsors an annual speech contest, which is designed to develop leadership and stimulate interest in conserving natural resources.



  • Contest is open to public, private, parochial or home school students from 6th through 12th grade in Okeechobee County.
  • A signed entry/release form is also required.
  • Provided enough participation, the District contest may be divided into two categories (6-8 & 9-12) with the highest overall scoring students from each category advancing to Area Contests.

Contest Rules

Contest Topic – Where would we BEE without pollinators?

  • Speeches must be original, not previously used, and created by the contestant. Notes may be used while speaking, but audio and visual aids of any form are not permitted.
  • Winner of the local competition will be entered in an area competition (multi District), and may then advance to the State competition. Highest scoring Area winner will advance to the State competition. Contestant may not wear attire that identifies them with any organization (e.g., FFA, 4-H, school logos).
  • Time Limit – Speeches must be a minimum of five to seven minutes in length. Time under or over these limits, respectively, will result in two points deducted for each 15 second increment or part thereof.
  • Judging – A standard score sheet will be used for all contestants. Three judges and one time keeper will be used at district, area, and state competitions. Judges should be experienced in public speaking and should not be elected supervisors or staff. Judges will score entries based on the following criteria: 
CONTENT Relevance to the given topic 10
  Treatment (material used and accuracy of statements) 20
  Originality (subject matter and treatment) 20
  Total Content Points 50
COMPOSITION Organization, cohesiveness, grammar, style 10
  Total Composition Points 10
DELIVERY Voice (enunciation, modulation) 10
  Personal Appearance (neatness, posture) 10
  Communicative Expertise (sincerity, ability to convey thought and meaning) 10
  Stage Presence (gestures, visual contact) 10
  Total Delivery Points 40
  Total Possible Points 100

Oral speeches will be presented on  April 22nd, 2020 at UF/IFAS Extension Service Conference Room 

*Note to Teachers: Participation in this event would directly relate to Sunshine Standards, Language Arts, LA.C.3.4.1 and LA.C.3.4.2.

Linked below is a PDF of the entry form and flier.

2020 Speech Contest Entry Form

2020 Speech Contest Flier


Ag-Venture is a free, one day program which provides a great opportunity for fourth graders (public, private and home educated) to gain experience, understanding and the appreciation of our local agricultural industry. At Ag-Venture, students learn about soils, alligators, beef, bees, citrus, dairy, poultry, and vegetables. 

Soils: Students will first enter into a soil tunnel to see what is ALIVE in our soil. Then view a display of soil erosion and how our farmers and ranchers take care of the soil, before students head down their trails.Alligators: Students will learn about alligators in the wild and how they are farmed commercially. Students will get up close and personal with a hatchling.

Beef: Students learn about the many by-products of a beef cow and the economic impact of this industry to our county. They play Beef-O-Bingo and meet real cowboys.

Bees: Students learn about the importance of bees in agriculture. They are shown a “live hive” and the equipment used to harvest honey. Students get to find the Queen Bee, taste honey and make beeswax candles.

Citrus: Students are shown many different types of citrus and given samples to taste. They squeeze their own orange juice and learn about citrus production and its by-products.

Dairy: Students get up close and personal with dairy calves, see the types of feed they eat, learn about dairy products and
how the milk gets from the cow to the consumer. Students will also make their own butter.

Poultry: Students learn about the poultry industry, egg production, and the use of eggs. They learn the recipe to a perfect
omelet and taste it.

Vegetables: Students learn how vegetables get from the farm to the grocery store. They learn about the different parts of the plant that are edible and view a variety of seeds, plants and vegetables. Students will make a “Garden in a Glove”.

4th grade teachers will receive curriculum and pre/post tests that relate to each station that meet certain education bench-
marks. Interactive displays, tractors, animal feeds, and farm animals will be on display for the students, as well.

Land Judging

Land Judging is an exciting 4-H and FFA contest in which Middle and High School students in observe and interpret the soil in order to make wise land use decisions.

The skills the teens use at the contest involve principles that can be valuable in career fields like environmental and agricultural management, natural resources conservation, home building, engineering, and construction. Students can compete at the local, state, and national levels.

The Okeechobee Soil & Water Conservation Districts host local middle and high school students in FFA and 4-H to test their knowledge by judging soils from four pits that are selected by a Soil Scientist with USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

In each class (Middle 4-H, High 4-H, Middle FFA, High FFA) the local county winner may compete at the state contest in that respective class.

Top placing teams in the state contest are eligible to compete at the National Land Judging Contest held at the end of April.


The Regional Envirothon is a problem-solving, natural resource education program for high school students. It is a unique outdoor competition that requires teamwork and the application of knowledge in the five areas listed below:

  • Aquatics – water ecology, water chemistry, water quality, and aquatic life.
  • Current Environmental Issues – annually selected topics such as energy sources, ground water, Gulf of Mexico environmental concerns or other current issues.
  • Forestry – tree identification, tree ecology, insects, and timber.
  • Soils – classification, formation, soil properties, profiles, and site suitability.
  • Wildlife – habitat, identification, food, disease, and management.

Each team consists of five students. Schools can enter more than one team, but no more than six teams. The five-member teams are led by an advisor in studying prepared resource materials in the five areas including a selected current environmental issues.

Schools can enter more than one team, but no more than six teams. During the competition, the students will rotate to the five testing stations. Soil and Water Conservation Districts, bringing together soil scientists, wildlife experts, foresters, park and recreational leaders, and other environmental specialists to challenge students to learn about our natural resources.

Get in Touch!

452 US Highway 98 North
Okeechobee, FL 34974
Phone: 863.763.3619
Hours: M-F 8:00am-4:30pm

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