The Durham-area producer, now retired and living in Marion with wife Dorothy, served on the Marion County Soil Conserva?tion District board as a district supervisor from 1968 to 2006, including 33 years as chairman.
This year, Youk is being recognized for his contributions by receiving the Service Award from the district.
?I believed in conservation,? Youk said.
He became involved in the cause by implementing soil-saving practices on his operation north and west of Durham.
?That?s how I got on the board years ago,? he said. ?I started out with waterways and terraces in 1967, and kept working and kept working on them. Then I decided to retire and I rented all the land to young farmers that believe in conservation, so they?ll take care of it.
?I let them handle it,? he added. ?I?ve got eight renters and they?re all good guys.?
During his nearly four decades on the board, Youk has witnessed the evolution of the program firsthand and up close.
?When I first got on, there were only about four or five practices that we had?and that was terraces and waterways and ponds and diversion,? he said. ?Now they?ve got about 10 of them?all kinds of new programs that have come out.?
One of the most significant changes in recent years is the rise of no-till farming practices.
?I think it?s doing very well for the younger producers that understand it,? Youk said. ?There?s a lot of young producers that are using that now. I don?t know, it may be that in a few years they might do it too long and might have a problem. But right now they don?t.
?As long as it works, I?m for it.?
Youk said it was sometimes challenging to convince farmers in the early days of his tenure on the board.
?I don?t know how good a salesmen I am, but if they have a neighbor in their area that?s doing it, they can look to him to get the benefits of it?and that?s a big help,? he said. ?But if there isn?t anybody in the area, and you?re trying to get one person to be the first one, then you have to really work on them.?
Youk said credit for the success of the soil-conservation program in Marion County really goes to the people who oversee the Marion office of the Natural Resources Conserva?tion Service.
?All the people in the office play a big part of it,? he said. ?They?ve got to go out and check everything that a producer wants to get into when he signs up for it, to make sure it will work. We?ve got to have them; they?re No. 1.?
Then he is quick to add: ?And the secretary is No. 1 because she has to put up with all of the producers who come in there,? he said in reference to Betty Rich?mond, district manager, who has been with the office every bit as long as Youk has served on the board.
Youk?s run on the board was a good one, he said, but every good thing must come to end eventually.
?The reason I got off of the board is that I think a lot of these young farmers need to come in and be a supervisor,? he said. ?And they?ve got the cell phones and they?ve got the iPods?they?ve got all of this new stuff that I don?t understand, and I think it?s time for them to come in and get on the board and be a conservationist.?
And what would be his advice to them?
?It?s kind of like ?grab life by the horns,? I guess,? he said with a chuckle. ?Actually, I think we?re not done with new programs yet. I think there will be more coming out. Every time you change politics, something new comes out.
?A lot of times they put it out and then they don?t have the money to service it,? he added.
Though off the board, Youk remains solidly behind soil conservations practices?because they make economic sense.
?I know some of them were forced into conservation because of government programs,? he said. ?But I think after they got into it they realized what the benefits are.?
But it?s not all about money.
?We?ve got this reservoir out here and it?s all about sediment and everything, which is a big deal now?clean water,? Youk said. ?I?m just proud of myself that I?ve got the waterways and sentiment in to hold the sediment back.
?It?s a big thing.?