Tonn moves on after 18 years as extension agent

Steve Tonn’s life assumes a different pace this week as he leaves rural Marion County for urban Omaha, Neb.

Once again, Tonn, who was agricultural extension agent here 18 years, moves with both job and family in consideration. Friday was his last day at the Marion County Courthouse.

His career in Kansas State University Extension began in 1973 as an agent for Graham County at Hill City.

Tonn, a Reno County native from Haven, left there not only because the Marion County position was attractive, but it put him closer to home to help family.

His mother, Roberta Tonn, and brother, Mark Tonn, who is married with two children, still farm there.

“They have cattle, sheep and crops,” Tonn said. “I’ve been able to help with livestock, field work and crops. It’s been nice.”

What changed is that Tonn was married Feb. 17. He and his wife, Cecelia, have had to commute on weekends to be together.

Cecelia, a native of Lenox, Iowa, is a fund-raiser for an inner-city Catholic school in Omaha.

“It’s been a little difficult,” Tonn said. “Commuting back and forth is definitely not much fun. Cecelia’s been there for five years. Her brothers, sisters and mother are in the area.

“It will be a change going from here to a metro area,” he added. “I believe Omaha and Council Bluffs metro probably has a million people.”

Tonn will be working for the Nebraska Extension Service as an agent, beginning June 1, primarily in Douglas and Sarpy Counties in and around Omaha.

He will work on water conservation and quality preservation for the many lakes in the metro area with lake associations, developers, homeowners, golf course managers and others.

His years of experience with soils will help him because, he said, “I’ll be working on seeding, and reducing erosion off development sites. Reducing nutrient flow into lakes will be among the main topics.

“I am looking forward to living in Omaha. I’ll need to learn about the issues there,” he said. “I’ll miss Marion County too. I feel like the impact extension has had has always been with the good of the people of Marion County in mind. That’s what we’ve tried to do, and that’s the role extension is supposed to have in the community.

“I feel like one of the best things we’ve done is helping get the Marion County Economic Development Council organized. They’ve done great things over the years.

“The 4-H programs and leaders have been very good, and the agricultural programs have made good progress. Good education efforts have been made.

“No-till and conservation practices have changed things. We’ve been able to assist farmers in developing better livestock programs over the years.”

More crop varieties, such as soybeans and new types of corn, are being raised with less continuous wheat, he said.

Tonn said farmers who have contributed crop demonstration plots and tour spots, and agricultural businesses in the county have been very supportive in the effort.

He particularly appreciated support he has received from the Farm Service Agency and the Natural Resources Conservation Service in conducting field days and demonstrations.

“I know I’ll always have friends here,” he said.

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