Community Spotlight: Erica Lundquist, NRCS District Conservationist

Recently appointed as District Conservationist, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service for Lake and Mendocino Counties, Erica Lundquist discusses her role and vision for the region.

Erica Lundquist’s newly appointed position is a win for the region and Lake County winegrowers alike. Erica hopes to help growers in a multitude of ways, citing conservation programs aimed at identifying strategies to improve water quality and funding pools that subsequently could be used to help fund those initiatives.

Helping has been at the heart of Erica’s vocation for more than a dozen years. She has worked that long as a soil conservationist in the Ukiah field office of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS). She is now fulfilling that role in Lake and Mendocino Counties.

Erica and her husband moved to Lake County roughly 25 years ago, starting a walnut farm in the valley flatlands of the county. “We’re the real thing,” she says of Lake County growers, proud to include her husband and herself in the group.

Her connections to the county run deep. She co-authored the Clear Lake Integrated Watershed Management Plan and wrote watershed assessments for Kelsey, Scotts, and Middle creeks. She also served for five years as the viticulturist for the Lake County Winegrape Commission.

“Lake County has an ideal climate and ideal soils,” she says. “We did studies and were able to see that growers use fewer pesticides in this county than others, and I think that’s related to the climate. We get cold winters and dry summers. We have great hillside soils for red winegrapes and valleys for white winegrapes. Growers have demonstrated that they’re producing high-quality winegrapes,” she says, “and they are doing it in a sustainable way.”

Sustainability, Erica says, is a key ingredient for success, which she defines as that which “you pass on to the next generation.” To get there, Erica advises: “Look at how you’re managing your resources and see if there’s a way to adjust so that we can get on to the next century in good shape.”

At NRCS, she works to provide technical and financial assistance to help growers realize goals of sustainability and to get the most from their harvest in an era when nature’s challenges are as rich and diverse as the land under growers’ feet.

Like so many of her neighbors, she hopes the community can provide opportunities to keep and draw young people while retaining the bucolic splendor that separates Lake County from almost everywhere else.

“I like the fact that so much of the county is still kind of wild country,” Erica says. “Here, we’ve got these beautiful pockets of farmland, and it’s surrounded by a lot of natural land, and we have this beautiful lake in the middle of it. I find that a great thing.”

Erica plans on doing her part to help keep it that way for generations to come.

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