In the next couple years, the new executive director of the Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation said the organization plans to raise funds to bolster core initiatives of conservation.
Tricia Burkhardt became executive director in September, but has been with the foundation for three years.
She said many people think the foundation is part of the Missouri Department of Conservation, but it is not. The foundation is a nonprofit organization that financially supports the mission and priorities of MDC, but they are separate entities.
"We raise money for MDC projects, and they can work with us to get grants that they might not otherwise get because we are a nonprofit," Burkhardt said.
One area of focus is regenerative agriculture. By definition, this type of agriculture is a system of farming principles and practices that seeks to rehabilitate and enhance the entire ecosystem of the farm by placing a heavy premium on soil health with attention also paid to water management, fertilizer use and more.
"Over 93 percent of the land in Missouri is privately owned," Burkhardt said. "We have to rely on those landowners for help with habitat management because without that you don't have much. Some of the practices we could help them use include planting cover crops to keep soil in place, which also helps with water quality. Farmers can still be productive and can bring in these practices at the same time. Most, if not all farmers, also love to hunt so working to keep the land viable for deer and turkeys is something they're always interested in."
After graduating from the University of Missouri, Burkhardt started working in the public relations field with agriculture and animal health organizations in Iowa. That's where she met her husband, Matt, who is the head brewer at Public House Brewing Company. When Matt was hired for his job, that allowed the couple to move back to Burkhardt's home farm in Freeburg.
"This is the farm my dad and I grew up on, and it's a Century Farm," Burkhardt said. "I did get to do some marketing work for the brewery and that was a great experience because it showed me what help businesses need from an agency like the Missouri Heritage Foundation."
The foundation continues to work to help MDC with its clean water initiatives. Burkhardt said they are working to get a program going with the Missouri Craft Brewers Guild where if customers buy certain beers, part of the proceeds go back to help the clean water initiatives.
One program the foundation is most proud of is the National Archery in Schools program. The foundation helps MDC put on the state tournament in Branson.
"In March, we had over 3,500 kids shoot in that tournament," Burkhardt said. "That was amazing and great to see because a week before the tournament was to be held in 2020 we had to cancel it because of the pandemic.
"That program is so impactful for the kids because they learn discipline and self-confidence and it's very inclusive," Burkhardt continued. "Even those with disabilities can shoot."
Brukhardt said one teenage competitor she remembers had recovered from fetal alcohol syndrome.
"He'd gotten off his feeding tube when he was 14 or 15, and he loved to watch hunting shows," Burkhardt said. "It turned out the school in his town had an archery program, and his coach worked with him. Eventually he was recognized as the most improved member of the team. It allowed him to make friends, and it just shows how the program can bring kids together in a unique way."
The implications of what the foundation can do are far reaching, Burkhardt said, "Because if you can get just a few involved in something, it will get bigger."
"We want to connect with people and help them enjoy nature where they are," she added. "You don't have to go 10-30 miles away. You can enjoy places basically in your back yard."