Dr. Michael Woods, executive director of the Association of Illinois Soil & Water Conservation Districts, was part of part of 2024 Soil Health Week at the Illinois State Capitol, He spoke both at Lobby Day Wednesday March 6 and The Art and Science of Soil Health Advocacy in Action Day Thursday March 7.

State Sen. Doris Turner, Dr. Michael Woods, Davonne Long and Leticia Taliafero pose

State Sen. Doris Turner (chair, Agriculture Committee) and Dr. Woods pose with Davonne Long and Leticia Taliafero, Conservation Planners with the Capacity Building Initiative, during Soil Health Week – Lobby Day Wednesday 6 March 2024.


Dr. Woods’ Lobby Day presentation: I’m with the Association of Illinois Soil and Water Conservation Districts, and we couldn’t be happier or more excited to be here to help celebrate this amazing week.

Soil Health Week is a uniting opportunity. As you can see today, we have legislators from both sides of the aisle. It proves that soil is basically an opportunity to bring us together.

It’s not just beneath our feet, but it’s a fabric of our community. It’s the fabric of our society, and it builds what makes Illinois strong; a strong, vibrant agricultural community.

We’ve been talking about the present. We’ve been celebrating the past. 86 years ago, March 1st. So, right around this time, FDR signed an amazing piece of legislation, and he created the Soil and Water Conservation Districts, and he said “the nation that destroys its soil destroys itself.”

Today, we united to showcase that we will not allow the soil in Illinois to be destroyed. And we’re going to do that for the next generation.

View from behind as Dr. Michael Woods speaks

Dr. Michael Woods speaks to a crowd of supporters during Soil Health Week – Lobby Day.


Many of us are FFA members and former FFA members, and FFA stands for that creed, right? I believe in the future of agriculture, not just in the words, but in the deeds. And I imagine many of you understand that and remember those words.

Michael Woods points to art display, with edge of Illinois map showing

Dr. Michael Woods, executive director of AISWCD, talks about The Art and Science of Soil Health display featuring soil-based paints to Liz Moran Stelk, executive director of the Illinois Stewardship Alliance, during Lobby Day Wednesday.

Dr. Woods’ The Art and Science of Soil Health Advocacy in Action Day presentation: We are excited about the Art and Science of Soil Health here in Illinois. As NREC’s Julie Hewitt shared with us, there’s a significant amount of science behind everything we need to do to continue to advance conservation. But what we also need to know is that we need art, we need the art of bringing it all together. And we have a lot of Michelangelo’s throughout our communities. We call them our Soil & Water Conservation Districts’ staff. They are the ones out there in the forefront, working with the producers to put that art and that science to play in our communities.

And we need to express that appreciation to them. And we need to continue to showcase to our elected officials that we are making a difference and we are protecting the most important natural resources of our state – our soil and our water. And we’re doing that through the people that will bring the art and the talent together.

Michelangelo once said, he says “a man paints with his brains and not his hands. Every block of stone has a statue inside it. And it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” I contend our SWCD and our conservation specialists throughout the entire state, our new Conservation Planners, they are the sculptors. They’re working with the producers to craft and sculpt what we want to see on our farmlands to protect our most important natural resources in our agricultural industry. To have that though, we need to have patrons of the arts as well.

We’re very fortunate that we have the Illinois Department of Agriculture leading the way. Without leadership from the Department of Ag to provide us the incentives to continue to advance our efforts and under our Director Costello’s leadership, we would not be able to move many of our new initiatives forward. So, thank you so much. We appreciate your patronage and support.

We also know that our elected officials here in the state have continued to showcase that need to support and further those investments to keep moving forward with providing more of the science in the field and more of the artists in the sidelines to help keep moving us forward. So thank you to everybody. We appreciate that.

Everybody here that supports all of our efforts throughout the entire state, we appreciate and we need you to even meet more. Continue to be those artists and those sculptures and the patrons for providing our support. We also without remiss Tom (Beyers, AISWCD board chair) showcased support earlier to our directors that continue to … be the engine, the fuel behind elevating a lot of our activities throughout the 97 Soil & Water Conservation Districts.

Thank you to each of you. We know we need to continue to gear up and support you as you support our local staff as well. So, thank you so much for being here to help celebrate and bring the Art and Science of Soil Health continued throughout the state of Illinois. Appreciate it!

Group on stairs at state capitol

Dr. Woods (lower left) joins Illinois Department of Agriculture Director Jerry Costello II, local Soil & Water Conservation District employees and board members, Conservation Planners for the Capacity Building Initiative, and other supporters of Soil Health Week in group photo following The Art and Science of Soil Health Advocacy in Action Day.

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