HSWCD board member Andrew Brooks helping to plant some 20,000 longleaf seedlings at the Lower Green Swamp Nature Preserve in Plant City, a 2021 Hillsborough 100 Conservation Challenge action awareness project.

By Linda Chion

Hillsborough Soil and Water Conservation District (HSWCD) youth contests are gearing up as the nonprofit HSWCD prepares for its showcase tent at the Hillsborough County Fair in November.

Held annually are speech, photography, rain barrel decorating, youth horticulture and land judging contests, along with two poster contests and the Envirothon ‘environmental Olympics.’

Moreover, the annual Hillsborough 100 Conservation Challenge involves youth and adults in road, river, beach and stream cleanups; tree plantings; community gardens; recycling and repurposing efforts; and more. The two-year ‘Operation Pollination’ pledge for projects runs in conjunction with Rotary International and the Rotary Club of Brandon Global Eco.

Set for display from Thursday, November 3 through Sunday, November 13 at the Hillsborough County Fair, at the county fairgrounds in Dover, are posters and decorated rain barrels, which will be auctioned off at the HSWCD’s sixth annual Great Plant Auction, set to start at 1 p.m. on November 13. Also on display, vying for ribbons, are Youth Horticulture Show entries, including bonsai, bromeliads, cacti, succulents, ferns, palms, herbs, foliage and flowering plants.

Orchestrating HSWCD programs, projects and activities for inner city, urban, suburban and rural communities is executive director Betty Jo Tompkins, who answers to a five-member board elected and chaired by Andrew Brooks. Also on the volunteer board are Sonja Brookins, Karen Cox Jaroch, Mark Proctor and, appointed to fill a vacant seat, Melissa Jackson.

“Soil and water conservation districts address a large number of community needs dealing with natural resources conservation, education and understanding,” Tompkins said. “We program for youth and adults and offer a vast array of services for agricultural interests, including cost-share programs to support environmental and conservation enhancements.”

The summer poster contest focuses on ‘Our Perfect Pollinators, Bees, Birds, Bats and Butterflies.’ Focused on watersheds, the ‘One Water’ school-year contest, run in conjunction with the National Association of Conservation Districts, allows for top finishers to advance from district to state to national competition.

The deadline is April 28, 2023. Cash prizes for both contests are awarded to first, second and third-place finishers in five grade categories. Each entrant receives a certificate and free county fair ticket.

For more, visit www.hillsboroughswcd.com, call Tompkins at 813-477-8332 or email bjt6890@yahoo.com.

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