Hanging It Up After Half Century in Soil Conservation

9/1/2012 7:00 AM
By Teresa McMinn Central Pa. Correspondent

CLEONA, Pa. — When Frank Harvatine began his career in soil conservation, he had no idea it would last nearly 55 years.

“A lot of the kids that I started training have been retired for 10 years,” Harvatine said, laughing at the thought.

Harvatine, 73, of Cleona in Lebanon County, is retiring from his post as a conservation technician for the Pennsylvania Association of Conservation Districts. His last official day on the job is today.

“I felt it was a good mission and I enjoyed working with the agricultural community,” said Harvatine, who has been based in PACD’s Lebanon office.

He started his career in 1958 as a student trainee in soil conservation service in Wayne County. Soon after, he was transferred to Chambersburg in Franklin County, where he worked for 10 years as a soil conservation technician. From 1968 to 2001, Harvatine worked in the USDA’s soil conservation service in the Lebanon area.

“It was all USDA from the beginning to 2001,” he said of his career. After that, he retired. But not for long.

In 2001, he took a job as a conservation technician for PACD on a part-time basis. That’s where he’s worked until now.

Over the years, Harvatine saw many changes in the industry. In the early days, conservation technicians spent most of their time with farmers in fields. Today, there’s a greater focus on more complex designing of conservation plans, he said.

“The biggest change is the size and complexity of the farm enterprises. ... The cost of farming is so much higher now,” he said. “When we started, it was two-row equipment, horse-drawn and small tractors. ... Now, they have monster machines.”

Harvatine said he will miss his job. But now, it’s time for “the young guys” to take over.

Jared Boger, a conservation technician based at PACD’s Lebanon office, said Harvatine trained him for the job. Boger will pick up the workload left by Harvatine’s absence, he said.

“He taught me the ropes of conservation practices,” Boger said. “He’s a great teacher, great man.”

In a recent issue of the PACD newsletter, Robert Maiden, executive director of the organization, thanked Harvatine for his work.

“Frank has been in this field, for years, first working with NRCS and then joining the PACD family,” he said. “He is dedicated to preserving our environment, and we will certainly miss him and his expertise.”

Harvatine said part of his retirement will be spent on road trips across the U.S. with his wife, Beverly. Along the way, he’ll pay close attention to crops, farming methods and “what they’re doing with the land,” he said, adding that dirt is in his blood.

“I probably wouldn’t be happy if I didn’t have soil under my fingernails,” he said. “You can take the boy away from the farm, but you can’t take the farm away from the boy.”

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