Ron Lauster was not a household name in ag circles, but he did a tremendous amount of work to carry the message of conservation to people who had no clue what it meant. Many of those he talked to and wrote articles for lived in Marion County and surrounding suburban areas.
Lauster, most recently employed by the Marion County Soil and Water Conservation District, passed away unexpectedly on April 1. He spent most of his professional career with the Natural Resources Conservation Service. But over the past decade, he worked with the Marion County SWCD, issuing hundreds of releases about conservation, often geared to those who live in suburban areas.
His name appeared either as a source or in the byline on an article more than once in Indiana Prairie Farmer. While most of his efforts were devoted to urban conservation, occasionally he penned articles that applied just as much to rural Hoosiers, especially in terms of how to convey the message of the value of soil conservation to their urban and suburban neighbors.
Ironically, he passed away one day after being recognized as part of the Marion County SWCD team that received the 2011 Indiana Campus Compact Outstanding Community Partner award from IUPUI. The award was presented to honor the district for all the work the district has done in helping both the Indianapolis community as a whole, and IUPUI students.
Part of the student involvement was through Web work that allowed them to learn while helping the SWCD provide logistical support to other city and county groups and agencies. The students were exposed to soil and water conservation, and the value of such efforts as backyard conservation in urban or suburban settings.
Paula Baldwin, with the Marion County SWCD and immediate past president of the Indiana Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts, says dozens of other conservation organization ns helped celebrate Ron's life and his work in a memorial service held earlier this month. Groups represented there, she notes, included personnel from NRCS, the National Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts, The nature Conservancy, the Hoosier Chapter of the Soil and Water Conservation Society, IASWCD and Hoosier Heartland RC & D.
Baldwin says he'll be remembered as a mentor to young professionals in NRCS, and as a voice for soil conservation across Indiana. Many of the materials he produced were distributed through other districts around the state. Indiana Prairie Farmer adds its condolences to his family, and notes that his efforts will be sorely missed.