Over the weekend I had the pleasure of visiting the Pheasants Forever Ashland County Chapter. Ashland County won second place in our Future Forward Fund contest last year. The project was to purchase a new tractor to help maintain the multiple parks and wildlife areas the Chapter volunteers care for regularly. I faced an 8 hour drive on Friday and a return trip of the same length on Saturday to be present for the unveiling and I can say without a doubt that it was worth every minute on the road.
Before arriving in Ashland, I only had a vague knowledge of just how much the chapter did for its community. In fact, I had never even met my host in person. Matt Martin, the driving force of the Chapter submitting their project, greeted me with a meal and a packed agenda. I got to meet a lot of the active members and have some great conversations about our products, their conservation projects and how much impact all Pheasants Forever chapters have on their communities.
After treating me to an awesome dinner, the men were kind enough to let us get a later start on Saturday. At 8:30 they picked me up for a morning tour of the 15 parks and wildlife areas Pheasants Forever helped maintain. Many of these are newly created areas that the chapter supported not only monetarily, but through volunteer hours. That was really the most impressive learning of this entire trip for me: the sheer number of volunteer hours these men and women put into their community is amazing. Most I spoke with have full time jobs, but still dedicate hundreds of hours per year
to their wildlife areas. This is living the values. Their dedication to the environment is what is going to keep hunting alive for generations to come.
Equally as impressive was the tractor. Over the years we have given hundreds and thousands of dollars to conservation projects and all of these projects were worth every penny. I’ve gotten to see reports and pictures of these project updates for years, but this was my first opportunity to get to be a part of it. We arrived at the site of the tractor unveiling and I was met with a ton of chapter members, their families and even the local community. The amount of gratitude and support Ashland County and the surrounding counties were providing their local chapter was truly inspiring. Every person I spoke with at the event had a personal investment in that tractor…whether they had given funds, cast their vote, sought out other resources, they worked their tails off to get this tractor for their community.
I got the pleasure of speaking with Roger Miller, who is the main tractor user of the group. He informed me that the chapter’s previous tractor was a great machine in its day, but it was now past its prime. The tractor had been donated to the organization in the late ‘90s and was an early ‘70s model. After more than 15 years of use, Roger and his fellow members decided it was not
helping the community to keep this tractor. More volunteer hours were being spent fixing the tractor than working the fields and that was not a valuable use of volunteer time or living up to the values of Pheasants Forever. After a lot of thought and they decided to purchase a tractor on their own, through fundraising, grants and their own chapter earnings.
I was informed that ours’ was the first grant they applied for and after winning they knew they were really onto something here. Through a lot of hard work, dedication and digging deep into their own pockets the chapter accomplished its goal and was able to present this beauty to the community. It was a very touching moment for me and I was so proud that SportDOG was able to be a part of it, and even more so that I got to be there to represent my team. This is a great bunch of guys and I got to witness them live the values of Conservation, Preservation and Education first hand. Congrats again to my new friend in Ashland County. I can’t wait to see the tractor in action!
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Eleanor, El, Marshall is the Marketing Specialist for SportDOG. She joined the team almost 5 years ago. El is a graduate of the University of Tennessee with majors in Business and Communications. She is a die-hard UT and Atlanta Braves fan, even through the rotten years. El lives in Knoxville with her beagle, Blitz, and her six year-old son. She is a proud momma who intends to educate her son in all things hunting as soon as he’s big enough to carry a shotgun.