Create an Account - Increase your productivity, customize your experience, and engage in information you care about.
Posted on December 4, 2019 at 4:22 PM by Jennifer Ambrose
The human body can go weeks without food, but only about 3 days without water. Access to clean and safe water is something we often take for granted. It is vital for drinking, recreation, sanitation, hygiene, industry, and agriculture. It is our most precious global resource.
Life in Lenawee depends on the water cycle, which is also known as the hydrologic cycle and includes our ground and soil. The Agricultural industry requires clean, healthy water to grow our food so ensuring that we are being intentional in preserving this valuable resource is vital to the continued success of our communities.
When the first settlers came to Lenawee County they found a well-watered land due to the lakes and rivers that abound. As they began working and tilling the land, the need became evident to establish a drain system. After all, a flooded field does not produce good crops.
(photo credit: Larry & Joan Gould, whose family helped develop our early agriculture industry in Lenawee County)
Parts of our county were also covered with wetlands and marshes. The southeastern part of our county was part of the Great Black Swamp. As the demand for more tillable land grew, Lenawee County established the first county drain in the state of Michigan.
In 1847, three men (from the township of Dover, the village of Adrian, and the village of Tecumseh) were approved to establish a drain that would access four townships. The Lenawee County Drain Commission was established to maintain and expand on this new infrastructure that would expand with the population growth in the County.
The Dust Bowl
In the 1930s, a severe drought and high winds led to a weather phenomenon named The Dust Bowl. Eroding soil from poor farming and conservation practices led to massive dust storms that blew east from the Great Plains to New York City. The impact on the economy of the United States was devastating and intensified the effects of the Great Depression.
In response, the federal government created the Soil Conservation Services (SCS). It was a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) entity placed in counties across the nation to focus on soil conservation.
“Local farmers did not want to be told best practices on agriculture from a national perspective. That was one of the reasons they established the local conservation districts. The local districts could lay out the local issues for the USDA staff,” explained Tom Van Wagner, Field Technician for the Lenawee County Conservation District.
Lenawee Conservation District
The Lenawee Conservation District (LCD) was established in 1946 with a mission to guide the local conservation process to protect the soil and water resources and provide education and technical assistance to ultimately create a balanced environment.
Upon its establishment, the LCD developed best practices in agriculture for soil conservation and implemented programs with the help of Lenawee County farmers. The initial focus was on learning more about the source of erosion that caused massive devastation during the Dust Bowl. Resulting conservation practices included planting tree windbreaks, refining tilling practices, and introducing cover crops.
Since then, the focus of LCD has shifted to additional soil conservation methods such as keeping nutrients in the ground and reducing the runoff in water that drains from the field.
“The conservation district here in Lenawee County is focused not just on soil but also on water. We are looking to see what landowners in the County can do not only for the betterment of their property but also the surrounding area,” stated Lindsay Garrison, District Manager of the Lenawee Conservation District.
Farms need irrigation to grow bountiful crops and they receive that irrigation in Lenawee from two primary sources: precipitation (rain, snow, etc.) and direction irrigation from their water source (wells that pull from the aquifers underground).
The aquifers recharge from precipitation that drains through the ground. Runoff from the fields goes through the ditch system that was put in place by our ancestors (and is maintained today by the Lenawee County Drain Commission). From there, the drains lead to the River Raisin on the east side of the County and Bean Creek on the west side. Bean Creek joins the Tiffin River which flows into the Maumee River at Defiance, Ohio. Both the River Raisin and the Maumee River empty into the western basin of Lake Erie.
(photo: Bean Creek Watershed)
(photo: River Raisin Watershed)
The Maumee River meets Lake Erie in Toledo and the River Raisin meets Lake Erie in Monroe. Although Lenawee County isn’t directly connected to Lake Erie, what we do here in Lenawee affects the Great Lake.
The Lake Erie Algae Bloom was first noticed in the 1960s. Algae blooms are formed by bacteria that is produced from nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus, iron) and thrives in warm, shallow waters like the western Lake Erie basin. The blooms produce dangerous toxins that are poisonous to humans, fish, livestock, and pets – causing illness, organ failure, or death.
Many municipalities get their water supply from Lake Erie, including Toledo. In 2014, the city of Toledo lost access to this as a water supply due to the dangerous conditions caused by the algae bloom. Their water supply was immediately halted, leading to a water crisis. Upgrades were made to the processing plant and they developed backup plans to get water directly from the Maumee River but that has caused additional expense and processing problems.
One enterprising Ohio resident has proposed the idea of selling water to western Toledo residents from his water pipeline. The pipeline sources water from the Michindoh Aquifer, the very aquifer that Lenawee County drinking and irrigation water comes from in the western half of Lenawee County.
“One of the issues with this idea of pumping water outside the aquifer but not putting it back is that it could create an imbalance in the natural water cycle,” stated Van Wagner. “It’s all related to rainfall and recharging. The amount we take out of that aquifer as well as how long it takes to recharge. This will affect our Lenawee County residents if it happens.”
Lenawee Farmers are deeply connected to the soil and conservation. They understand the impact that their farming practices have on Lake Erie and are leading the way in making changes to improve the situation.
“Lenawee County farmers have recognized that farming practices contribute to the algae bloom in Lake Erie. We also have sewer drainage and other industry runoff, but our farmers acknowledge the part they play,” stated Garrison. “Together we are collaborating to address the issue.”
Lenawee County farmers have been diligently working to reduce their impact through new conservation practices. The positive results can be seen in the most recent aerial algae bloom maps.
“The District has worked very closely with landowners to implement conservation practices to reduce that impact and it’s visible from satellite imagery when you look at the mouth of the River Raisin versus the Maumee River,” said Garrison. “Most of our farmland drains into the River Raisin Watershed. There is a difference in the amount of sediment coming from those two tributaries.”
Lenawee continues to lead the way in applying for and receiving USDA funding, grants, and other County funding for new studies and practices in soil conservation. Some of the current grants include:
“We’ve recently received grant funds to do some newer and more innovative nutrient management practices with farmers,” explained Garrison. “With the new funds, we are trying some new equipment on small and large farm operations to help with placement of the nutrients and measuring the effects on both the yield and the nutrient drainage into Lake Erie.”
Garrison and Van Wagner check on some of the new equipment in place on Sunrise Farms, Inc., owned by Jim and Laurie Isley and their son Jacob.
Four Reasons This Is Important to Lenawee
How do farming practices, aquifers, algae blooms, and conservation impact Lenawee County residents on a day to day basis?
First, this has a direct impact on the water we get from the tap in our houses and businesses. Whether it’s well water or water from a local municipality – it all comes from the same source and is part of the water cycle. Water is very expensive to procure from other areas as residents in Toledo have discovered.
Second, this has a direct impact on the food we eat. Soil conservation practices have the added benefit of increasing the yield for Lenawee County farms. In the State of Michigan, Lenawee County is the leading producer of corn, the second leading producer of wheat, and a top ten producer for many other crops.
Third, since agricultural is one of Lenawee County’s largest industries, the success of our farmers directly affects the economic success of the rest of the county. Research shows that each farmer’s business is very closely tied to eight other local small businesses.
Finally, as the business economy flourishes, it pours back into our local government through tax revenue. With higher business tax revenues, the burden on the personal property owner to fund mandated government services is reduced. If these revenues were to decline, the burden on citizens taxpayers would increase.
“Agriculture is the greatest and fundamentally the most important of our industries. The cities are but the branches of the tree of national life, the roots of which go deeply into the land. We all flourish or decline with the farmer,” stated Bernard Baruch, an advisor to President Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Lenawee County’s rich agricultural history combined with today’s innovative conservation approaches can help our communities remain a leader in agriculture production and protect our water sources for many generations to come. To learn more about soil conservation, visit the Lenawee Conservation District.
Posted on October 29, 2019 at 12:21 PM by Jennifer Ambrose
Why Training Your
Employees to Become Trauma-Informed Benefits Your Bottom Line
It may seem like the
opportunities for staff training are endless.
Whether they are mandated by law, critical for operations, or further
the educational opportunities for your employees, it can be difficult to
balance the need for training with the workload needed to keep your business
running. Training your staff on becoming
trauma-informed may seem like something you could skip or put off until next
year – but it is worth another look.
This training could have a major impact on your employees, customers,
and ultimately impact your revenue.
Adverse Childhood Traumas
Adverse childhood traumas
(ACEs) are stressful or traumatic events, including abuse, neglect, or
household challenges that occur before an individual becomes an adult. The number of ACEs a person experiences
strongly influences their development.
The Lenawee Health Network
researchers have discovered a correlation between ACEs and adult problems. In Lenawee County, 15% of adults have
experienced 4 or more ACEs. That means
15% of your employees have experienced these issues. Research shows that the conditions and
behaviors of ACEs are often the same conditions and behaviors that lead to
absenteeism, job problems, and other indicators of poor work performance. Training their fellow co-workers and your
management team on considering trauma when approaching problems, you can
interrupt the connection between past trauma and current performance.
This is not just limited to
your staff. This also means that 15% of
your customers have experienced trauma that is affecting their behaviors as an
adult. Training your employees be to be
trauma-informed will increase empathy, enhance safety, and ensure improved
delivery of services.
Benefits of Becoming a
Understanding what others are
going through creates empathy. Empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what another
person is experiencing from within their frame of reference, to place oneself
in another’s position.
Empathy has many benefits to
your business, but one of the most tangible, visible impacts is on an improvement
in customer service. Customers often
just want to be heard and understood. It
doesn’t mean that you have to agree with every single thing that they are
saying or give them everything they want, but customers will often walk away happy from an interaction if empathy is displayed, which
will create brand loyalty.
Empathy also improves
teamwork. When team members empathize
with each other, your team can solve problems like never before. Disagreement, frustration, and ill feelings
go away and are replaced with a synergetic cohesive unit that is focused on delivering results.
Finally, empathy fuels
innovation. There are many studies
today that highlight the correlation between empathy and innovation. So much so, that the Cleveland Clinic has an entire conference devoted to the two to improve the
patient experience. CEOs from Microsoft, Warby Parker, and KIND are shifting their focus to empathy training for
their employees because of the innovation that can grow out of an empathetic
How Does My Business
The first step to becoming a
trauma-informed organization is to conduct an organizational assessment. Lenawee County Mental Health Authority can
assist you in conducting an assessment at no charge to your business. An assessment is important to begin with
because it gives you a baseline in which to track improvement over time.
The time it will take to
complete an assessment will depend on the size of your business, internal team
members available to help complete the assessment, and your organization’s
Regardless of the size of
your organization, becoming trauma-informed
will better your business and would be an important investment that will return
your investment of time many times over.
Posted on October 29, 2019 at 10:39 AM by Jennifer Ambrose
The Maurice Spear Campus was
named for its founder, former Lenawee County Probate Judge Maurice Spear, who
first conceived of the idea of creating a county youth facility after he was
elected in 1960. The MSC consists of two different programs: a detention unit
that houses up to 26 kids and an open unit that can house up to 40 kids.
The detention unit is a secure
facility for kids who have committed a crime and are required to remain in the
facility under a court order. The detention unit stays can vary from one day to
one year. The program provides education and enrichment groups to help get kids
back on track.
“We try to make an impact by
helping the kids understand the poor choices they are making and what the
consequences are,” explains Rodney Weaver, Director of the Maurice Spear
The open unit employs a more
therapeutic and rehabilitative approach. It is designed for kids who’ve had
repeated admissions to the detention unit and have not responded to other types
of interventions in their home or community. Admission to the open unit is
based on an order from the Juvenile Court. The typical stay in the open unit
lasts from 9 to 14 months.
“The open unit has much more
family involvement. We provide individual and family counselling. And the kids
go to school right here on campus. They have chores and responsibilities,”
explains Weaver. “They also have involvement in the community and do volunteer
Having an open unit means the
doors are not locked. The kids know that they are there under a court order,
but they can also leave the campus to participate in community activities. They
can earn more opportunities based on positive behavior.
“In the open unit, we can focus
our attention on the kids that need help and want to get help, and their
families,” explains Weaver. “The program is a commitment. The more the kids buy
into it, the more successful they will be.”
The MSC employs youth specialists
who work with the kids every day and remind them to brush their teeth, take a
shower, and do their homework. Those basic tasks create the foundation for
positive habits for the youth and creates stability in their lives
The youth specialists also
coordinate schedules and provide transportation for the kids. “Our staff are
constantly driving kids all over town and making sure everyone gets where they
need to be,” explains Weaver. “More importantly, they show the kids that there
is someone who cares about where they are and what they are doing each day.”
In addition to the youth
specialists, there are also licensed therapists who provide individual and
family counseling that is essential for the kids to make positive changes in
Kids also attend school during
their stay at the Maurice Spear Campus. The school is staffed with five
teachers from the Lenawee Intermediate School District (LISD). Many of the kids
have fallen behind in school and are not meeting the standards for their age
and grade level. One of the goals for the teachers at the MSC is to make sure
the kids get caught up.
One of the primary benefits of
the on-site school is the small class sizes, which means that kids receive more
individualized attention. All of the teachers from the LISD are used to working
in groups that include different ages and skill levels. The teachers are also
cross trained to cover multiple subjects. The personalized instruction can help
the kids learn to appreciate school in a different way. It reignites their
passion for learning.
“This year, we had four students
graduate from high school and two of them were also accepted into Sienna
Heights University,” says Julie VanBlack, Regional Supervisor at the Lenawee
Intermediate School District. “We try to make sure the kids leave here with an
education and job skills that will allow them to move forward in their lives in
a positive way.”
Another unique program is the partnership between MSC and Goodwill Industries. The program with Goodwill Industries is all about job training. Any of the kids in the open unit have an opportunity to meet with the staff at Goodwill to discuss their interests and find out if there is a job that would be a good match. They start off working at Goodwill one afternoon per week, and if it works out, they can increase their hours to two evenings per week.
“They work in the retail stores or the in the distribution center getting items sorted for the stores. It provides great real-world experience for them,” explains Weaver. “They are paid on a debit card and can use that income for whatever they need to buy. It teaches them responsibility.”
In addition to the partnership with Goodwill Industries, MSC has relationships with many individuals and organizations in the community that provide volunteer opportunities for the kids.
Volunteer activities can range
from raking leaves in the fall for local senior citizens, to working at the
Michigan International Speedway to help clean up on race day. The kids also
help out local charities, such as the Michigan Humane Society. All of these activities
help to build connection and increase self-esteem for the kids staying at the
“We are very thoughtful in the
partnerships we choose,” explains Weaver. “We want to select activities that
are positive and healthy for the kids to participate in, while also making a
contribution back to the community.”
The Maurice Spear Campus is
guided by an advisory Board of Directors that includes representation from
cities and townships across Lenawee County. Many of the board members come from
the educational system, including John Springer, a retired teacher who has
served on the board since 2008.
“As board members, we are
dedicated to helping the program achieve its goals,” says Springer. The board
has helped to raise funds for program improvements, and they provide financial
support for the partnership with Goodwill Industries. They also support special
events for the staff and residents, as well as funding scholarships to colleges
or trade schools for program graduates.
“It’s hard to say where these kids
might end up without these services, but probably not in a good place,”
explains Weaver. “It is easy to go down the wrong road. Our program provides
structure and guidance to help these kids make better decisions.”