OC Team Updates: May News
May 29, 2015

OC Adviser Inducted into Co-op Hall of Fame

nelsonOgallala Commons congratulates William Nelson, who is Vice President of CHS Corporate Citizenship and President of the CHS Foundation (and an OC Advisory Council member since 2008), for his induction into the Cooperative Hall of Fame in ceremonies May 6, 2015, at the National Press Club, in Washington, D.C.

Induction into the Cooperative Hall of Fame is the highest honor the U.S. cooperative community bestows on those who have made genuinely heroic contributions in support of the cooperative form of enterprise.

Nelson has been a strong advocate for OC’s Community Internship & Apprentice Program since its inception in 2007.

Getting Busy with Playa and River Festivals

article by Robert Martin

r-martinRobert Martin is OC’s New Mexico Coordinator and a member of the OC Advisory Council.  Robert and his wife Sydney, live near Santa Fe, NM.

I’ve been involved as a volunteer with Ogallala Commons Playa Festivals since 2009 and I’m excited about the opportunity to become more involved with OC. Since January, I’ve been organizing 8 Playa and River Festivals in New Mexico that are funded by the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish “Share with Wildlife” Program.  We have modified OC’s Playa Festival program to fit the predominant features of the local watersheds which means holding River Festivals in some parts of New Mexico.

We held a River Festival for the Santa Rosa Middle School in Santa Rosa for 160 6th, 7th, and 8th graders on May 14.  OC staff and volunteers did presentations on subjects including nature journaling, the water cycle, amphibians and reptiles, acequias, and fishes of New Mexico.  After lunch, we walked the students to a nearby spot on private property along the Pecos River.  The kids found a ton of invertebrates, baby softshell turtles, tadpoles, interesting plants, and had a great time exploring the river.

A Santa Rosa middle school student proudly shows off a baby softshell turtle that he found at the Pecos River site
A Santa Rosa middle school student proudly shows off a baby softshell turtle that he found at the Pecos River site

On May 15, we held a Playa Festival for 80 4th graders at Bella Vista Arts Academy in Clovis.  OC staff and volunteers gave presentations on subjects including an introduction to playas, the water cycle, invertebrates, playa amphibians and reptiles, and waterfowl.  We took an afternoon field trip to Goodwin Playa in Clovis which was extremely full due to the recent rains.  The kids had a great time collecting and observing Woodhouse’s toads, watching black-tailed prairie dogs, collecting mollusk shells, and filling out their nature journals.

A Clovis Arts Academy 4th- grader poses with Woodhouse’s toad that she found at Goodwin Playa
A Clovis Arts Academy 4th- grader poses with Woodhouse’s toad that she found at Goodwin Playa

Our team plans on doing a summer river festival at Taos Pueblo Day School and 5 more playa festivals this fall in eastern New Mexico.

OC Playa Classroom Hosts Visitors

Weeks of heavy rain in May have broken the drought across the High Plains region of Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas, and Nebraska. This summer, anyone who visits the area can find playa basins filled with surface water, amphibians, wetland plants, and wildlife.

On May 15th, a group of 21 visitors from Lubbock, Amarillo, and surrounding towns attended a Playa Management Field Day at the OC Playa Classroom south of Nazareth, TX.  Those attending did walking surveys of the lush uplands pasture and the playa basin to better understand key indicators of ecological health.  Manuel DeLeon of USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, offered excellent handouts and instruction, as did Scott Starr from Texas Tech University, with his overview on macro invertebrates and identification of amphibians caught in seining nets. Another highlight was the presentation of playa amphibians by OC Staff Contractor Robert Martin of Santa Fe, NM, with his amazing live specimens (toads, frogs, a salamanders, a snapping turtle, and even a bull snake)!  In the photo below, Mr. Martin is displaying a woodhouse’s and great plains toads, which are very common in playas of the Texas Panhandle.

Mr. Martin displaying a Woodhouse's Toad (right hand)and a Great Plains Toad (left hand), which are very common in High Plains playa wetlands.
Mr. Martin displaying a Woodhouse’s Toad (right hand)and a Great Plains Toad (left hand), which are very common in High Plains playa wetlands.

Ogallala Commons has two other playa education events scheduled for this summer. On June 25th, we will conduct a Playa Management Day (9am-1pm), at Halfway, TX (Hale County).  For a weekend option, anyone interested is invited for a morning Playa Tour on Saturday, July 11th from 9am-11:30am at OC’s Playa Classroom, followed by the Nazareth German Festival and sausage dinner the rest of the day.  For more details on either event, email Darryl Birkenfeld ([email protected]).

Changes Afoot for OC’s Operations Manager

article by Megan England

Since I was a child, I’ve dreamed about walking across the stage at Oklahoma Wesleyan University to get my undergraduate diploma. This month, it finally happened! I graduated from the OKWU Chesapeake Energy School of Business Communications department with a Bachelor’s of Science in Media Design & Strategy. It has been an incredible, crazy, challenging, and rewarding three years of study!

My parents and I at OKWU's graduation
My parents and I at OKWU’s graduation

Of course, this season of life is marked by many ends as well as new beginnings. I was recently blessed by the opportunity to accept a full time position as the Media Relations Coordinator at Oklahoma Wesleyan. I am thrilled to be working at a place that shares my mission and vision just as much as Ogallala Commons has, and couldn’t be more excited. Even better, I am applying to begin studying for my Master’s in Strategic Leadership here at OKWU.

As I begin this new journey, I am reflecting on the huge impact Ogallala Commons has had on my personal life and career path. It has truly been a pleasure to serve as an intern, Intern Coordinator, and Operations Manager for OC. With my new job at Oklahoma Wesleyan, I will be stepping down from the position of Operations Manager into a more behind-the-scenes role in supporting Ogallala Commons. I am so grateful for the relationships I have built at OC, as well as the many opportunities this community has provided for me. I cannot wait to see the great things Ogallala Commons will do in our future!

Alumni Evaluation Update

OC’s Intern & Apprentice Program Evaluation is moving along very well since beginning in April.  Thus far, 86 alumni of the program have responded to the online survey!
If you are an alum who has not yet found time, please take 10 minutes and go to this link to complete the survey:https://ogallala.wufoo.com/forms/oc-internapprentice-program-evaluation/
Your response allows OC to have updated contact information so we can stay in touch with you, in addition to valuable information that will help us to innovate and improve our work.
Our goal is to have a response from over 50% of our 200 alumni.