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Retirement ends 57-year career in conservation

Staff writer

July 31 was Betty Richmond’s last day at Marion County Conservation District office. She has been district secretary since July 1, 1963, shortly after graduating from Marion High School.

Richmond got the job through Kenneth Muse, the district conservationist, who she had worked with while keeping Sunday School attendance and collection records at First ME Church, now Valley United Methodist Church.

“My folks, Wayne and Cleo Tipton, did conservation work on their farm back in the 1940s and 1950s,” she said. “Our ground is pretty steep, and I saw the benefits of it.”

Richmond started mainly as a receptionist, but as cost-share programs and watersheds were added, her job expanded.

“At first, there were two instruction manuals, but that grew to a bookcase full,” she said.

Field measurements advanced from walking the fields with a wheel to using four-wheelers.

Richmond enjoyed working with grass seed and ordering it for conservation projects such as waterways and the Conservation Reserve Program.

Native grass intrigued her. CRP was a “big seed deal,” she said.

Time sheets and progress reports were kept by hand.

Richmond spent a lot of time coloring maps that were printed in black and white. Different colors represented different soil types. After the maps were colored, they were sent to Topeka for printing.

“Now maps are computerized,” she said. “You put in a legal description, and the map can be printed out.”

Watersheds required the planning of different structures and measuring acreage.

Conservationists were involved in household and livestock waste systems, and plugging wells.

Kansas Department of Health and Environment eventually got involved in conservation.

The biggest challenge for Richmond was the constant change in programs.

“There are always new programs to learn,” she said.

She had to remember different steps required to complete the work.

During her years at the conservation district, Richmond came to know a lot of farmers.

“I pretty much know everybody from one end of the county to the other,” she said.

She and Roger Richmond worked together at the district office. They were married in 1969 and live on the same farm she grew up on. She is the fourth generation to live on the farm.

Roger worked at the district until they were married, when he left to work full-time on the farm.

Her great-grandfather contributed the land for Claney Cemetery south of Marion.

Richmond has worked from home since March. She did some work on a computer at the office during April and June, when no one else was in the office.

Now that she is retired, Richmond has more time for her chickens and garden. She also takes care of a small herd of cattle.

“It’s a different world,” she said. “We can’t go anywhere right now.”

The Richmonds have a daughter, Keri, who works at a medical clinic in Wichita.

Last modified Aug. 5, 2020

 

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