The Mercer and Lawrence counties’ Natural Resources Conservation Service probably will never be the same, as a longtime officer I worked with has retired. He was more than just an officer to the farmers he worked with.
I met Gerald Didesiderio at a pasture walk in New Castle, Pa., three years ago. I can remember the day well: The group was at the Lawrence County Fairgrounds for a meeting prior to the pasture walk and this gentleman came up and sat beside me. He introduced himself and got right down to business: He had some farms he was working with on conservation projects and wondered if I would be interested in the stories.
Time has passed now and we have done a bunch of stories together. However, what I want to write about is the character this man is and the obvious importance he has to the farmers.
Jerry D. was more than someone from the conservation office or a USDA government worker to the farmers. I could see this as I took notes and listened to the banter between him and the farmers. There was something more to the relationship they have seemed to have. They knew he cared about the farm, the land and the animals. It came through as he designed the grazing plan for the Kenny Farm in Enon Valley, Pa., or the grazing plan for the Elder Farm in New Wilmington, Pa. He cared about the people, as well, he said he knew if they weren’t happy, then there was no use in creating the plan because it wouldn’t work. His experience had taught him that sometimes things work on paper, but they don’t work with animals or people. Farmers I talked to even commented that, yes, he knew the science and what was best for the land, but he also knew that the plan had to be operable in order for the farm to survive financially.
I guess after 33 and a half years, he had figured out that sometimes there is more to the farm than just what it looks like and how the water drains on it.
He was honored last week at the Lawrence County Conservation District luncheon for his years of service. Everyone in attendance could tell his job had been more than a job, it was a duty he took seriously.
“What I’m going to miss is the people and working with the land,” said Jerry.
He said he could do without the red tape involved in the government process, but the people and land will be missed.
Jerry D., as he always put on his signature line on emails, will likewise be missed in Lawrence and Mercer counties on many farms, I’m sure.
I think he will fill his time with plenty of hunting and fishing in the future.