Eddie Foster, a soil conservationist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Safford, Ariz., is the NRCS-Arizona Conservationist of the Year for 2008.

NRCS also handed out top awards to Melissa Martinez from Tempe, Ariz., as Conservation Support Employee of the Year and the Chandler Field Office as top field office in Arizona.

Foster’s efforts in educating Arizona’s agriculture community about NRCS programs and his expertise in new technology, new farming practices, and land management helped him earn the award.

Among his accomplishments in 2008:

– Working with local producers to test Solar Barley as an effective filter strip.

– Introduced underground drip irrigation as a viable option; helped farmers install more than 600 acres of underground drip irrigation and seven pivot systems that irrigate 375 acres.

– Major roll in a workshop that educated 32 producers and NRCS field staff on underground drip irrigation.

– Conservation planning on more than 6,000 acres.

– Created and chaired a Russian Knapweed group, and helped conduct spray trials on this weed.

Foster has been with NRCS for nearly five years, and he spent four years prior to NRCS as an agriculture teacher.