Soils Unit

U.S. Department of Agriculture

Natural Resources Conservation Service

Manatee River Soil and Water Conservation District Board Members

An elected five-member, non-partisan board of supervisors volunteer their services.

Chairman: Jennifer Brunty, Ph.D.
Vice-Chair: John J. O’Connor, Jr.
Secretary/Treasurer: Paul Howard
Supervisor: Callon C. ‘Buddy’ Keen, Jr.
Supervisor: Ben King

MRSWCD 2018 Budget Released
Read it here.

MRSWCD Annual Report (Fall 2016)
Read it here.

Assistance with Using ‘Web Soil Survey’ to Create Soils Maps

Would you like to know more about the soils on your property? The information provided in the traditional print version of the USDA Soil Survey is now available online at a site called the ‘Web Soil Survey’: Click on the green circular ‘Start WSS’ button to get started.

Refer to this brochure if you’d like to create your own map.

The ways in which soil surveys can benefit land users are detailed here:

Using the Web Soil Survey site to create a soils map is fairly straightforward, but can be challenging when one first gets started. If you’d like help to create a soils map for your property or area of interest let us know. We will help walk you through the steps or create a map to e-mail to you. If there is sufficient interest, in the future, a small workshop in using the Web Soil Survey may be held.

Contact us today:
Gail Somodi (941) 907-0011 x3142

David Outerbridge (941) 907-0011 x3144

USDA NRCS Programs

The Manatee County Agriculture and Extension Service Soils Unit, in partnership with the NRCS/USDA and the Manatee River Soil & Water Conservation District, assists Manatee County's land owners with conserving their soil, water and other natural resources. The majority of conservation application is accomplished with local partners.

Local, state and federal agencies and policy makers also rely on our expertise. We deliver technical assistance based on sound science, suited to a customer's specific needs. Cost shares and financial incentives are available in some cases. Participation in our program is voluntary. Applications are taken year round.

2017 Application deadline for USDA NRCS financial assistance is November 17! Press release below:

GAINESVILLE, Fla., Sept. 20, 2017 — Florida farmers, ranchers and forest owners can apply until Nov. 17 for financial and technical assistance from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) for fiscal year 2018 funding. Although applications are accepted on a continuous basis for all programs, funding selections are typically made once a year. Through EQIP, agricultural landowners may receive financial and technical assistance to improve soil, water, air, plants, animals and related resources. Eligible land includes cropland, rangeland, pastureland, private non-industrial forestland and other farm or ranch lands. The application deadline also applies to the following EQIP-funded initiatives:

Organic Producer Initiative · Seasonal High Tunnels · Energy Initiative · Pollinator Initiative · Everglades Initiative · Longleaf Pine Initiative · National Water Quality Initiative · Working Lands for Wildlife · Gulf of Mexico Initiative

Begin by visiting your local NRCS field office and requesting help developing a conservation plan. To learn about technical and financial assistance available from NRCS, go to Getting Started with NRCS.  The Manasota Service Center serves Manatee, Sarasota, and Charlotte Counties. District Conservationist Israel Vega-Marrero may be reached by e-mail  or phone (941) 907-0011 Extension 3143.

Applications received after the cutoff date will be held for evaluation for funding the following fiscal year. EQIP applications will be ranked based on a number of factors, including the environmental benefits and cost effectiveness of the proposal.

Click here to learn more about the 2014 Farm Bill.
Click here to view the EQIP flyer.
Click here for the Conservation Program Application.
Click here for Livestock Focus.
Click here for Forestland Focus.
Click here for Cropland Focus.
Click here for Nurseries Focus.

*NEW* Conservation Client Gateway. We encourage our clients to sign up for the secure online web application that gives landowners and land managers, operating as individuals, the ability to track their payments, report completed practices, request conservation assistance, and electronically sign documents anytime, anywhere. Conservation Client Gateway provides users the flexibility to determine when they want to engage with NRCS online and when they prefer in-person conservation planning assistance. Visit for more information and to sign up for the Conservation Client Gateway.

2016 Manasota Regional Envirothon

Students from seven area high schools competed in this environmental competition. Working in teams of five, the students took exams in Soils, Aquatics, Wildlife, and Forestry at Oscar Scherer State Park in Osprey, Florida. Questions regarding invasive species (the current event) were included in each of the exams above. Placing first in Manatee County was team ‘Those Who Shall Not Be Named’ (Megan Johnston, Alexandra van den Ochtend, Valerie Kreisel, Jessica Floto, and Rachel Hass) from Manatee High School. Riverview High School’s ‘Sandhill Cranes’ team (Alexander Keane, Brenda Villanueva, Catherine Harper, Chloe Salum and Isa Deu) placed first among Sarasota County schools. Thanks to major sponsors Manatee Fish and Game Association, Mosaic Company, Sarasota County Farm Bureau, Keep Manatee Beautiful and grohfoto wildlife photography.

Read more about the contest here.

2016 Land Judging Competition

The 55th annual land judging competition sponsored by the Manatee River Soil and Water Conservation District was held at the Quattlebaum House near Lake Manatee. Students answered test questions concerning soil properties at four fields in such categories as slope, depth, texture, permeability, erosion, and nutrients. One of the fields represented a potential homesite location, and students were questioned on how well the land could serve as a building site.

Jaimie Davis, FFA student from Southeast High School, won the I.H. Stewart Award with the highest individual overall score, sponsored by ECo Consultants. The FFA team from Southeast High School composed of Jaimie Davis, Laisha Casco, Jasmine Villegas, and Luis Solorzano won the Callon Keen, Sr. Award for the team with the highest score overall, sponsored by the Keen family. The team also won the high school FFA division.

Placing second in the FFA high school division was a team from Braden River High School, advised by Megan Welch, with students Rachel Cox, Elizabeth Durr, and Camrie Henderson.
A FFA high school team from Southeast High School placed third, advised by Mike Buckley with students Jadaliz Castro, Hao Le, Nicole Stone, and Odalyz Morfin.

Buffalo Creek Middle School placed first through third in the FFA division. Placing first at the middle school level was the team composed of Alyssa Pritchett, Zach Stolze, Marisa Badour, and Hannah Weltzein. The second place team, included students Daylan Maye, Aidyn Reynolds, Maradith Behringer, and Mikinzi Jackson. In third place, were Sorryl Cannon, Chloe Flournoy, Kyle Evans, and Jaydon Geiser. Steve Harber, advised all Buffalo Creek FFA students.

Placing first among 4-H seniors was a team including Claire Strickland, Sam West, Jesse West and Meagan Gigliotti. Second place 4-H seniors were Ben Hoffner, Westin Maye, Casey Wingate, and Hannah Whitaker. The intermediate 4-H team including Jay West, Brooke Strickland, and Clay Wingate placed first in the 4-H intermediate division. All 4-H students were advised by Alec Hoffner of ECo Consultants.


2016 Speech Contest

Manatee County students in grades six through 12 were eligible to compete in the annual Manatee River Soil and Water Conservation District speech contest on November 14th, a Farm City Week event. Designed to develop leadership through participation in public speaking activities and to stimulate interest in conserving our natural resources, the topic this year was “Healthy Soils are Full of Life”.  Students submitted written transcripts of their speech and then shared information with the audience in 6-8 minute speeches. 

Cara Zeveney, a student at Lakewood Ranch High School, won the competition qualifying to compete in an area contest to be held in the spring. Zeveney was awarded a check for $150 by the District for her first place finish.

Placing second and awarded $100 was Kylee Graham, a student at Lakewood Ranch High School. Katy Cardinal, a student at Palmetto High School, placed third and received $75.

Lakewood Ranch FFA teacher Janyel Taylor won the drawing for a $50 gift certificate to purchase educational supplies.

Judges were Braden Causey, a USF student majoring in speech; Mac Carraway, President of Carraway Consulting; and Martha Glenn, Extension Agent/Commercial Horticulture for Manatee County Government Agriculture & Extension Service Division.

Meet Our District Conservationist

Israel Vega

Israel Vega serves as District Conservationist for Manatee, Sarasota, and Charlotte Counties. With a decade of NRCS experience as a student trainee, Soil Conservationist, and District Conservationist-Israel has worked in different states and diverse topographies including the Midwest, the coastal plain in North Carolina, as well in the mountains in the center of Puerto Rico, and now currently in west central Florida. His BS degree in Mechanical Technology in Agriculture from the University of Puerto Rico has given him an edge in the application of conservation practices to protect and conserve water, soil, and other natural resources.

Israel’s family includes his wife Cristina and son Derek. His hobbies include running, swimming, and kayaking.

Now Available Online

Stormwater Ponds: A Citizen’s Guide to Their Purpose and Management

Published by the NRCS and a couple agencies, in cooperation with numerous agencies, this manual is written for citizens, stormwater managers and practitioners. With a practical approach to stormwater ponds and their care, the manual contains information on developing a neighborhood based care program for your stormwater pond. Please note that some of the contacts on the list in the back of the manual may be out of date. If you prefer a hard copy , we have a limited supply. Please call our office at 941-907-0011.

View the PDF.

Conservation Awards

Each year, teachers whose students participate in a Manatee River Soil and Water Conservation District (MRSWCD) event select a deserving student to be presented with a MRSWCD sponsored Conservation Award. The winning students have excelled at a conservation related achievement such as land judging or presenting a speech in the annual Speech Contest in November. In addition, the MRSWCD makes a donation to participating 4-H and FFA chapters.

Congratulations to the following students:

Middle School FFA
Kyle Evans-Buffalo Creek
Macie Parks- Haile

High School FFA
Rachel Cox- Braden River
Alexa Tadelman- Lakewood Ranch
Caleb Summeralls- Palmetto
Jaimie Davis-Southeast

Manatee County 4-H
Jonathan West

We coordinate several educational events for the Manatee River Soil & Water Conservation District, including Envirothon, Land Judging, Speech Competition, and the Spring Conservation Farm Tour.

Have you ever wondered what the nation's soil and water conservation districts are all about? Click here to read more...


Access soil maps and data online here.

For More Information


Or contact the local Manasota Service Center

6942 Professional Parkway East

Sarasota, FL 34240-8414

(941) 907-0011

Israel Vega-Marrero, NRCS District Conservationist

Gail Somodi, Manatee County Soil Conservation Supervisor

David Outerbridge, Manatee County Soil Conservation Planner