New head conservationist in Petaluma

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Drew Loganbill’s roundabout route to become head of a federal office in Petaluma includes a stop in a tiny village in the South Pacific. A former Peace Corps Volunteer in Fiji, Loganbill was recently promoted to district conservationist, running the Natural Resources Conservation Service filed office in Petaluma.

A branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the NRCS provides technical assistance for agricultural producers and helps them better manage the environment and natural resources. The Petaluma office has about 10 employees and serves Sonoma and Marin counties.

“Our motto is ‘Helping people help the land,’” said Loganbill, 39. “We’re more like a free consulting service for farmers.”

Originally, from Newbury Park, Loganbill studied forestry and natural resources at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo before joining the Peace Corps, where he worked as an environmental education volunteer. Living in a village with no running water and generated electricity only a few hours a day, he taught locals how to build composting toilets and protect fisheries.

He also collected rain water to drink and farmed a plot of land. His three years in Fiji were among the first years of his marriage to his wife, who served with him.

“It was challenging,” he said.

Their marriage survived — she is a dentist in Petaluma now, and they recently had a son.

After returning to Cal Poly for a master’s degree in forestry, Loganbill started with NRCS in the Petaluma field office in 2011 as a soil conservation technician. In 2017 he won the Conservation Planning Excellence of the year Award for California’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

The most popular conservation practices in the Petaluma office area are fencing and livestock water systems for rangeland and dairy pastures, Loganbill said.

“We do a lot with grazing management,” he said. “We help keep cattle away from creeks.”

The office is seeing increased interest in carbon farm planning and assisting forest land owners with fire recovery and fuel load reduction practices.

“My goals for the office are to grow partnerships to identify local resource priorities, and how to best serve producers’ needs in Sonoma and Marin counties,” Loganbill said. “I also aim to continue to outreach and provide assistance to under-served producers in the area.”

(Contact Matt Brown at matt.brown@arguscourier.com.)

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