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Angola farmer to get presidential honor

Work to conserve waterways earns White House visit

Vollmer- Sanders

Growing up on an Ohio hog farm made Carrie Vollmer-Sanders a conservationist.

“My first science fair project was about manure management, in the seventh grade,” Vollmer-Sanders, 33, recalled Monday.

Conserving natural resources “was something we always talked about as a family,” the Angola resident said, and she studied it at Michigan State University.

Her current work to keep fertilizer runoff out of Lake Erie has caught the attention of the Obama administration.

The White House announced Monday that Vollmer-Sanders is among 14 people selected as recipients of Champions of Change awards “for their efforts to engage communities and youth in environmental stewardship and conservation.” The awards will be presented this morning.

Vollmer-Sanders and her husband, Ryan Sanders, grow corn, soybeans and wheat near Hamilton and in northwest Ohio. She also is the director of the Western Lake Erie Basin Project for The Nature Conservancy.

“Carrie leads the Conservancy’s efforts to promote a healthy Lake Erie by working with farmers, agribusinesses, researchers, government agencies, and conservation groups to improve nutrient management and drainage practices,” the White House said in a statement. “With Carrie’s leadership, this broad group has developed a voluntary, third-party certification program in which farmers’ fertilizer and crop advisers can be recognized for their efforts to improve water quality.”

Today’s award ceremony at the White House will be streamed live at 9 a.m. at

The Champions of Change program honors people for “doing extraordinary things to empower and inspire members of their communities,” according to the White House.

Vollmer-Sanders said she doesn’t know who nominated her for the award. The Department of the Interior notified her recently that she is a recipient; and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell is expected to speak at the awards presentation.

The Journal Gazette reported on Vollmer-Sanders’ conservation work in a story published last May. At the time, the mother of two boys discussed the need for landowners to reduce the phosphorus content of their fertilizers.

Phosphorus runoff in waterways can cause toxic algae blooms that deprive fish of oxygen.

In the same story, Vollmer-Sanders urged landowners to be more prudent and better informed about how, when and where they apply fertilizers.

“Err on the side of less,” she said.