In 1936, the Farm Bureau in Polk County appointed a County Agricultural Planning Committee composed of eleven members. The formation of this committee was the result of the creation of the Soil Erosion Service within the U.S. Department of the Interior on August 25, 1933. On March 25, 1935, the Soil Erosion Service was transferred to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Soil Conservation Service.
The County Agricultural Planning Committee made an extensive study of farm practices and classified the problems in order of their importance as follows: Proper Land Use, Crop Rotation, Soil Treatment, Erosion Control, Efficient Crop and Livestock Production, Farm Price Outlook, and Farm Income. Their recommendations were printed in pamphlet form and widely distributed to all the people of Polk County.
The Committee’s final report was submitted to the Extension Service of Iowa State College and to the Program Planning Division of the Agricultural Adjustment Administration so that they might serve as a guide in developing educational and action programs for agriculture. All these previous progressive efforts brought to light the problems of the County’s agriculture but did not provide an effective approach to get the job done.
As time went on, a growing interest and desire of Polk County farmers was to make a desperate effort to correct the soil and water problems on the land. Farmers were concerned about the soil erosion on their farms due to the excessive amount of rainfall in the Spring of 1943 and 1945 and decided to organize a Soil Conservation District in Polk County. Just four years prior to 1943, the farmers of Polk County were of the opinion that the land of Polk County was so level that erosion was so minor that there was no immediate need for a Soil Conservation District. Petitions were circulated to the landowners of Polk County by 120 farmers and within three weeks over 40% of the landowners and signed petitions requesting the establishment of a Soil and Water Conservation District.
On December 28, 1945, the Polk Soil Conservation District was organized with the first district office being located at 1800 East Euclid Avenue in Des Moines with B.F. Alleman elected as chairman. By the time the Soil Conservation District was organized and an office established, there were 156 farms totaling 28,000 acres ready for assistance of a Soil Technician. In 1987, legislation was adopted to add water to the district title, creating soil and water conservation districts.
In 1969, the Polk SWCD Commissioners declared different and increasing demands are being made, both for and upon the land and water resources. Some land is being used for new subdivisions, new schools, and new industry. Recognizing these changes, the Commissioners of the day were committed to help in any way to guide these changes. By May 1971, the District Conservationist initiated the first documented conservation program in Polk County regarding soil conservation measures needed in urban areas.
Today, the Polk Soil and Water Conservation District participates in both rural and urban conservation practices. The District has expanded their services by providing outreach to the urban community and establishing new partnerships to insure long-term problem solving through the use workshops, training, and cost share programs.