When she tells a group of first graders that the ingredients in the cereal they ate for breakfast that morning came from the ground, watershed conservationist Millie Langley is used to hearing an echo of disgust throughout the room.
Aside from her job with the Guilford Soil and Water Conservation District, Langley is a non-formal educator at local schools and colleges in the area who teaches about the importance of water and soil conservation.
“There’s a real need out there for someone to educate students [about conservation],” Langley said.
Recently named the 2009 Outstanding Environmental Educator of the year by the NC Association of Soil & Water Conservation Districts and inducted into the N.C. Envirothon Hall of Fame, Langely has her hands full educating and working to install conservation practices with farmers. Langley also surveys and helps to obtain grants to install farming practices.
Langley grew up on a farm north of Elon and attended North Carolina State University, studying soil and water conservation. She has been an employee with Guilford County for over 20 years now.
“I love it,” Langley said. “This is something I’ve done all my life; I can’t imagine doing anything else.”
Envirothon is a competition for high schoolers who work in teams of five to study and prove their knowledge in five different areas of natural resources: aquatic ecology, forestry, soils, wildlife, and current environmental issues.
The students participate in a local Envirothon and the winning team goes onto the national Envirothon, the Canon Envirothon, to represent their state.The members of each winning team for their state receives $500.
This year the Canon Envirothon will be hosted by the North Carolina Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts; Langley is a member of the committee. It will be held at UNC-Asheville in August.
Langley is hoping Alamance County will make it there this year; this will be determined in the local Envirothon in Alamance County’s Cedarock Park in April.
Langley feels strongly about encouraging people to be mindful of conservation.
“People think of food and think it just comes from the grocery store,” she said. “But without soil, we wouldn’t have food or things like fibers for sheets and towels.”
Since winning the two distinguished awards, Langley wants to continue doing the work that led her there.
“We are human beings and we are part of the environment,” she said. “We’ve got to take care of the environment. We all buy too much; we need to think about that a little bit more.”
Langley also wants to teach students more about the importance of farmland protection, wildlife habitats, development, roadbuilding and soils.
“I think there’s hope out there,” she said. “There’s a lot of good things happening like recycling. It’s important for people to realize how important our natural resources are.”