Conservation Corner: The end of an era
While Doreen Conlogue’s official title at the USDA Farm Service Agency has been County executive director, she was much more than that.
On any given day her “other duties as assigned” might include receiving last minute phone calls from (mostly) Littleton farmers to pick-up equipment parts in Presque Isle on her way home from work, distributing her many pounds of excess garden vegetables to coworkers and community members, or acting as confidante to many of the County’s growers and landowners.
Conlogue’s executive director position was unique as she supervised all three County FSA offices, something that allowed her to develop relationships with customers from Patten to Fort Kent.
Depending on who you talk to, her retirement from FSA has been met with goodwill, bewilderment, or denial. The goodwill has come mostly from her coworkers in the three County offices and state office colleagues.
Former FSA State Director Dave Lavway was part of the committee that promoted Conlogue to executive director a decade and a half ago and worked with her for several years. Lavway credited Conlogue’s work with her ability to connect with people and the fact that she always did her job with integrity.
The bewilderment and denial are mainly dedicated to “her” growers and landowners. Basically, all the people that she has built relationships with through FSA over the past 33 years. Central Aroostook potato grower Scott Martin told me, “In my opinion, she’s retired too young!” Since most farmers I know farm life-long, he does seem to have a valid point.
Martin said that he first met Conlogue in 1990 when he had just begun farming and she had just started working in the Presque Isle office. Over the years, he said that she has been “unbelievable to work with,” many times going the extra mile for him and other growers.
Houlton potato farmer Donald Fitzpatrick reiterated Martin’s remarks regarding Conlogue taking great care of the growers. He said that she was one of the best in her position and was a pleasure to work with. She apparently was so good at her job that Fitzpatrick found himself serving on the FSA county committee for a time where he was able to work with Conlogue in a new capacity.
Littleton potato farmer Greg Schools told me that Conlogue was always available if needed and again, she “always had the best interest of growers in the County at heart.” And yes, Schools is also one of those famers who has made a few of those, “Can you stop and pick up a part for me?” calls over the years.
For Conlogue, retirement came with mixed emotions. When I checked in with her on a recent brilliant end of summer day, she clearly was enjoying her free time, but said that what she would miss most about her job was working with the farmers.
As she said, “I have the best customers in the world. It sounds simple, but it’s the truth.” After 33 years of working at FSA, it is a testament to Conlouge’s work that both she and “her” customers share the mutual respect, trust, and care for one another.
Angie Wotton loves her work as district manager for the Southern Aroostook Soil and Water Conservation District. She also raises pastured pork and vegetables with her husband on their small West Berry Farm in Hammond. She can be reached at 207-532-9407 or via email at email@example.com