Throughout the 1930s, the Great Plains was plagued by a series of four major drought events. The area was always prone to periods of drought, but in the 19th century, it was a widely accepted fact that the climate of the Great Plains was ever-changing. Settlers would persevere through drought and harsh winters until the rain returned and brought a successful growing season. During the 1920s, the region became more vulnerable to periods of drought as the result of low crop prices, crop failures, and poor agricultural practices. It is these events that would eventually lead to what would become known as the Dust Bowl. The severity of these droughts played a role in further contributing to the Great Depression and other hardships.
In 1935, the Dust Bowl led to the birth of what is now known as the Natural Resources Conservation Service. In the NRCS’s early days, it was the Soil Conservation Service. The Soil Conservation Service guided farmers towards the best practices for their farms and the environment. In 1937, the first county conservation district was created and signed into law. These districts were intended to link federal resources to the local farms and producers, and they continue to do so today.
While Massachusetts was too far east to experience the dust bowl, farmers were experiencing their own problems. Soil and water pollution ran rampant and unchecked across the state and so, thirteen conservation districts were established within the state. On November 7, 1946, the Plymouth County Conservation District was signed into law.
The PCCD works with landowners, farmers, producers, and other organizations to promote and encourage the conservation of water and soil. In the early days of the Plymouth County Conservation District, the district had heavier equipment and more projects and plans. The NRCS has since taken over projects that typically fell in the realm of the PCCD. But the district has still been a part of many different projects to aid and encourage local producers to embrace conservation. One of the longer-running programs was the Tree, Shrub, and Plant Sale. The sale was held every year since 1970. The sale encouraged erosion control, windbreaks, and wildlife food and cover while also providing funding for whatever the district had planned next. The Plymouth County Conservation District no longer hosts this sale and has instead chosen to embark on other projects.
Some more recent projects include the creation of a demonstration pollinator garden in 2017. This project aimed to create a pollinator garden for others to see and be inspired by. Before the pandemic, the district was far along in developing a rain barrel program that was put on hold and will hopefully be continued soon. The PCCD has also received a grant to develop a comprehensive program for manure management and is currently in the early stages of developing this program.
For information about the dust bowl, the history of conservation districts and Plymouth County Conservation District, visit these sites: