The annual Texas Conservation Awards Program is sponsored by the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board (TSSWCB) and the Association of Texas SWCDs (ATSWCD).  Texas' 216 SWCDs are encouraged to participate in the program, which recognizes conservationists in a variety of categories, "to acknowledge, recognize and honor those who dedicate themselves and their talents to the conservation and wise use of our renewable natural resources".    

2019 Texas Essay Winner, 14-18 Years Old Division

Lexus Aguirre


The 2019 essay topic was "Life in the Soil:  Dig Deeper".  Menard ISD student Lexus Aguirre was chosen as the statewide winner in the Senior, 14-18 years old division of the contest. 


The poster and essay competition is conducted annually by the Association of Texas SWCDs (ATSWCD) and the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board (TSSWCB), along with a variety of other conservation award categories. 

Contests begin at the local level, with county SWCDs selecting winners, who are automatically entered into Area contests.  Lexus was selected as the winner in Area II, comprised of 52 SWCDs.  She was chosen as the Texas winner from among other local winners across the state. 

Lexus Aguirre was recognized as state winner of the Conservation Essay contest, senior division.  She was presented an award at the 79th Annual Meeting of SWCD Directors, held October 28-30, 2019 at the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort in San Antonio.  Presenting Lexus' award are, left to right:  Volney Hough, president of the Association of Texas SWCDs; Lexus; Marty Graham, Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board (TSSWCB) Director, Area II and Rex Isom, TSSWCB Executive Director.  


Attending the 2019 Annual Meeting of SWCD Directors in October in San Antonio to support Lexus, are, left to right:  J. W. Jennings, Menard County SWCD Director, Zone 4; Raven Aguirre; Marcy Petty Benavides; Lexus; Cydney Petty; Jewel Aguirre and Charlotte Albrecht, MCSWCD Business Manager.


The 2019 Area II Awards Banquet was held in Wall, TX

The 2019 Area II Awards banquet was attended by MCSWCD Directors, staff and NRCS

The 2019 Area II Awards Banquet was held in Wall, TX


    Lexus received an engraved plaque at the Area II Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board Awards Banquet Tuesday, May 7, 2019 at St. Ambrose Parish Hall in Wall, Texas, for her first place conservation essay in the 14 to 18 years of age category. 

  TSSWCB Director Marty Graham of Rocksprings presented the plaque and announced that Lexus had also won the state competition.  She will be recognized and receive a state award plaque in October in San Antonio, TX at the Annual Meeting of SWCD Directors. 

  The Area II Awards Banquet was attended by approximately 200 guests, who were served a meal of steak, cheesy potatoes, baked squash, green salad, hot rolls, and cobbler by the Knights of Columbus.

   Attending the banquet to support Lexus were Joe and Sissy Baker, Marcie Benavides, Quentin Baker, Cydney Petty, Jewel Petty and Raven Aquirre, all of Menard.  Also attending were Menard County SWCD Directors Benny Fred Kothmann and wife Cordelia, Gary Treadwell and wife Heather and Billy Kniffen, along with Charlotte Albrecht, MCSWCD Business Manager and Chris Casaday, NRCS District Conservationist in the Menard Field Office.


Congratulations Lexus!

Pictured in slideshow at left:  TSSWCB Director Marty Graham of Rocksprings presented the Area II Conservation Essay award to Lexus Aguirre.  Graham then announced that Lexus had been selected as the State Essay winner in the 14-18 years of age category.  



Age 13 and Under Category

Pictured at left, from left to right:  Tami Russell, MISD; students Audrey Mazac, first place; Jared Ruiz, second place; Eduardo Osornio, third place; MCSWCD Directors Billy Kniffen and Jerry Kidd.

2018 Texas Conservation Teacher of the Year

Mary Kniffen


Mary Kniffen was recognized as the Conservation Teacher of the Year at the annual convention of SWCD Directors held in October 2018 at the Omni Hotel in Ft. Worth.  Helping Mary celebrate her award are, left to right:  Lisa Brown, Menard County AgriLife Extension Agent; Louise Jennings, wife of Director Jennings; Chris Casaday, NRCS District Conservationist/Menard Field Office;  J. W. Jennings, Menard County SWCD Vice Chairman; Mary Kniffen; husband Billy Kniffen, MCSWCD Director; Charlotte Albrecht, MCSWCD Business Manager; Kendria Ray, Texas Soil and Water Conservation Board Area II Field Rep.

In recognition of her years of excellence in teaching local students and her continuing commitment to conservation, Menard County Soil and Water Conservation District #215 recognized local educator Mary Kniffen as Menard's 2018 Teacher of the Year.  Kniffen was then awarded the top teacher spot in the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board's Area II region, comprised of 52 SWCDs. 

Her outstanding achievements earned her the ultimate statewide title of 2018 Texas Conservation Teacher of the Year.  In October 2018, friends, family and co-workers travelled to Ft. Worth to support Kniffen as she accepted her award at TSSWCB's 78th Annual State Meeting held at the Omni Hotel.  

Kniffen actively works with local 4-H members and Jr. Master Gardeners to teach them the importance of ethics, leadership, responsibility, conservation, community and the outdoors.


She works with local schools to encourage cross curriculum involving gardening and school subjects such as math and science.


In 2005, Kniffen started Jr. Master Gardeners in Menard County. The group went on to win Texas Group of the Year, National Jr. Master Gardeners Service Achievement Award and Small Group of the Year. She was recognized with the Marva Ebeck Jr. Master Gardeners Leader of the Year Award in 2010.


Three years ago she added the Morning Glory Seedlings which allows students from kindergarten to third grade to participate in Jr. Master Gardeners. Kniffen continues to be a leader in teaching our future generations the importance of conservation and stewardship.