Rita Copenhaver

Administrative Assistant

Tel: 231- 757-3707 ext. 111

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Rita joined the Mason-Lake Conservation District in October of 2019.  Rita grew up on a farm in Victory Township and is a life-long resident of Mason County.  She attended West Shore Community College and Western Michigan University.  Rita assists District Manager Dani McGarry with the administration of various grants along with basic office administration.  She brings a wealth of experience to the office having worked 17 years at the County of Mason as an administrative assistant and several additional years at various small private offices in the area..

Seth Earl

NRCS District Conservationist

Tel: (231) 757-3707 ext. 3

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Seth Earl is farm boy who is passionate about conservation and helping people pursue their dreams. Hailing originally from southern Michigan, Seth spent time working in conservation across seven states before moving back to Michigan and marrying the farmer’s daughter. Serving as a District Conservationist in the Scottville field office since September 2007, Seth works closely with farmers to evaluate conservation alternatives. Along with his wife Lyndsay, Seth assists in the agronomy and fertility management of her family’s 99-year-old, 1,600-acre, 500-cow dairy farm; Stakenas Farms in Free Soil. Active in 4-H, FFA and Farm Bureau, Seth and Lyndsay were named the 2017 National Runner-ups in the Young Farmer Excellence in Agriculture contest. As young parents they fuel their passion for the agricultural industry, community minded approach and willingness to serve others as they try to instill the rural way of life for their daughters McKenzie and Madisyn.

Jerry Kass

Conservation Technician

Tel: 231- 757-3707 ext. 110

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Jerry Kass grew up on a dairy farm in Muskegon Michigan where he developed a love for the great outdoors. After High school he joined the U.S. Navy as a Hospital Corpsman where he had the opportunity to travel the world and develop his passion for assisting others. Jerry came home and enrolled in Grand Valley State University where he graduated with a major in wildlife biology and minor in chemistry. He spent three summers working with the DNR as a wildlife assistant working with local producers in Mason, Lake, Wexford, Osceola, and Missaukee counties helping them mitigate crop damage. He also banded waterfowl and conducted wildlife surveys. Jerry spent 6 months working as the Conservation Coordinator for the Kent Conservation District where he ran the invasive species strike team. Now he works as the Mason-Lake Conservation District’s Conservation Technician, helping landowners to utilize federal conservation programs.

Dani McGarry

District Manager

Tel: (231) 757-3707 ext. 102

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Dani joined the Mason-Lake Conservation District at the end of 2015 and transitioned to the District Manager position in 2017. In her capacity as Manager, she collaborates with partner organizations and local landowners to complete conservation activities in our community. This may happen through collaboration on grant applications, linking landowners with the appropriate technical experts (on staff or elsewhere) and promoting existing programs for funding conservation projects. Dani came to the District with experience in habitat restoration and invasive species management. She has a Bachelor's of Science in Biology from Michigan Tech University and a Master's of Science in Natural Resources from the University of Michigan.

Zach Peklo

Invasive Species Technician, North County Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area

Tel: (248) 210-6047

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Vicki Sawicki

Program Coordinator, North County Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area

Tel: (231) 429-5072

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Josh Shields

Forester, Forestry Assistance Program

Tel: (231) 889-9666

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Jamie VanDerZanden

MAEAP Technician

Tel: 231- 757-3707 ext. 109

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Jamie joined the Mason-Lake Conservation District in May 2018 as the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP) Technician. MAEAP is a voluntary program for farms to be recognized and rewarded for being stewards of the land. As a MAEAP technician, Jamie works with farms to help them receive recognition in one or more of the four MAEAP systems: Cropping, Livestock, Farmstead, and Forest/Wetlands/Habitat. The MAEAP program is 100% confidential. By becoming MAEAP verified, your farm could earn recognition as a top steward in the community, regulatory assurances, cost share and technical assistance, along with the accomplishment and pride in protecting the environment. As the MAEAP technician, Jamie can apply her diverse background in the agricultural industry to help assist farms with becoming MAEAP verified. Jamie grew up on a family farm in Pentwater Michigan, right on the Mason County and Oceana County border. The farm specializes in asparagus and pumpkins and grows row crops as well. Some of Jamie’s favorite childhood memories included spending time with her Dad in the tractor and going with him to deliver asparagus. Eventually that led to her helping her Dad drive tractor in the fields and delivering her own loads of asparagus. Jamie plans to continue learning from her Dad and help with the farm. Jamie decided to stay in the agriculture industry that she grew up in to pursue a bachelor's degree in Agribusiness Management at Michigan State University. Before graduating she had the opportunity to intern with Ceres Solutions (formerly known as North Central Co-op) in Hart, Michigan for two summers as their field scout. As a field scout, Jamie had the opportunity to learn about the nutrient and pest management side of farming. She spent those two summers scouting fields for pests and diseases and collecting soil and plant tissue samples. In addition to her time out in the fields, Jamie interned for one summer in the Grand Rapids area at GreenStone Farm Credit Services as their first crop insurance intern. As the Crop Insurance Intern, she had hands on experience learning to fly a drone to map orchards and create orchard maps for farmers. Jamie is excited to use her past experiences in the agriculture industry to help farmers in the community receive the recognition they deserve for being stewards of the land.