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Franke Has a Passion for Outdoors

Published: Friday, January 11, 2019

Person You Should Know

Martin Franke is this week's featured person to know. Franke is the district manager for the LaGrange County Soil and Water Conservation District.

Hometown: I grew up in LaGrange County, moving to the rural Wolcottville area with my parents from Goshen when I was 2 years old in 1967. I graduated from Lakeland High School in LaGrange in 1983. Although I have lived in other places in my life (West Germany for a year in the 1970s, the northwestern bush country of Ontario, Canada for another year in the mid 1980's, and my wife's home area of southeastern Pennsylvania in the early 1990s for five years), it has always been my goal to live in my home community.

My family: My wife Christine (Sensenig) and I have lived at our current home in eastern LaGrange County since 1994, where we have operated a small produce and apple farm since moving there. We have three children; Arthur, 24, graduated from Purdue University in 2016 with a degree in agronomy and is a soil conservationist with USDA-NRCS. My daughter, Maggie, 21, is a senior at Purdue this year, studying graphic arts and design. My youngest son, Hans, 18, is a senior at Prairie Heights High School, and currently works for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources at Pokagon State Park.

My job consists of: I am the district manager for the LaGrange County Soil and Water Conservation district, a job which I find very satisfying. I have always wanted to be involved in a vocation that really "makes a difference." I have worked for the SWCD since 2005.

You may not know it, but if you live in Indiana, then you have an SWCD working for you! Conservation Districts are partners at the local level with other private and governmental organizations that are charged with the responsibility of helping citizens make good choices when it comes to managing their natural resources. Natural resources, by the way, are the most important things that we have, though we mostly take them for granted. How would your day go if you didn't have food to eat, water to drink or air to breath?

Most rewarding part of my work: I find it particularly satisfying when our work in conservation allows us to identify a resource concern (agency "speak" for an environmental problem), and then find an affordable solution that fixes the problem, improves the situation, and doesn't end up dumping responsibility on anyone in particular. Conservation districts are not enforcement agencies; they work best through finding avenues of voluntary cooperation.

Right now, I get great satisfaction from being involved in the promotion of management intensive rotational grazing as a livestock management tool; this is an important part of the work of the LaGrange County District, and we "do" rotational grazing by having monthly pasture walks and helping put on the annual Northern Indiana Grazing Conference. Big challenges to work on also include the promotion of soil health, water use and quality, and control and eradication of invasive species. The promotion of good forestry management practices is a special interest of mine; I am an admitted "tree hugger," although that sometimes involves the use of the chainsaw as much or more than the use of a tree planting bar.

Hobbies: For leisure time, my interests run parallel with my work-I like to do things outdoors. I like to travel, camp and hunt-but find that I am too impatient to enjoy fishing very much. I like to collect antiques, but usable ones, not wall hangers, especially coffee cups, tools and firearms. In pursuit of things like that, I find I like to frequent thrift shops, antique shops, garage sales and auctions. I really enjoy getting something old, worn out and rusty at a dirt-cheap price and then spending time, a little money and a lot of elbow grease making it work and look good again. I guess in a way, that's conservation too.

To nominate someone for this column, call or email Jerry Goshert (, or Caitlin Yoder (, associate editor. The telephone number for both editors is 574/831-2138.

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