TEMPLE, Texas — The year 1979 had several memorable moments, including the first modern Bungee Jumping demonstration performed by a group of students from the Oxford University Dangerous Sports club who jumped from the Clifton Suspension Bridge that adjoins England and Wales. Pink Floyd released the multi-award-winning concept album “The Wall” with the top selling single “Another Brick in the Wall” and the general knowledge quiz game Trivial Pursuit was launched.
The year also represented the start of a new chapter for a fresh-faced young man who embarked on more than a 43-year journey with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), formerly the Soil Conservation Service (SCS).
Russell Castro, a native of Austin, Texas, began his career July 1, 1979, as a rangeland management specialist in Zapata, Texas.
“I had long hair back when I had hair,” he said then chuckled.
Prior to working for the agency, Castro studied wildlife management at Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Texas. He attributes his passion for the outdoors to his high school biology teacher and his work ethic to his father, an Air Force Vietnam veteran.
“My dad had a great work ethic and taught me to be adaptive in different situations,” Castro said.
During his tenure with the agency, Castro served in other positions such as a range conservationist and a district conservationist. After applying for 28 different jobs in 1987, Castro was selected to serve as the district conservationist in Edna, Texas.
“I learned that the main thing that changes with different jobs (within the agency) is the importance of knowing what is going on in your counties,” Castro said. “What I learned from changing jobs within the agency is that you gain more knowledge and keep growing while being groomed for different positions.”
In 1991, Castro was selected to work in one of the state’s area offices, now zone, as a biologist. He said he enjoyed working outdoors the most, especially with landowners.
“I have moved around to various positions within the agency and realized there is a need from the agricultural side to the urban side,” Castro said. “Our staff members are a wealth of information. The information, paired with the passion for what you do made me want to come to work each day. I cannot recall a single day when I was noy excited to work within the agency.”
Castro was transferred to the state office in 2002 where he focused on areas, including floodwater prevention sites and environmental permitting for floodwater prevention sites.
Castro was selected as the NRCS-Texas state wildlife biologist in 2007.
State Resource Conservationist Charles Kneuper has been Castro’s supervisor for almost two years, and said he liked Castro immediately.
“You cannot help but like him,” Kneuper said. “He is the most laid-back, easy-going guy and reminds everyone that everything is all good.”
Kneuper said Castro made quite the first impression when he first met him in 2007.
“Russell is a great individual – very supportive and optimistic,” Kneuper said. “Russell has been supportive — always — from when I was in the field office to working alongside him at the state office.”
Russell, who is slated to retire at the end of December 2022, made a significant impact on the agency due to his passion for agriculture, work ethic and can-do attitude.
“Russell has a great work ethic — it’s one that not everyone sees or can fully appreciate,” Kneuper said. “The things Russell has done for Texas NRCS are huge. A lot of what Russell has done cannot be fully appreciated because we didn’t have to experience the alternative had he not been successful in his work. Russell understands our job is to speak for the resource. His approach within NRCS was to take care of the natural resources and meet the agency’s mission. His optimism and his support of others through encouragement is unmatched.”
Castro, who spent his entire career in federal service, shared advice for a successful career. “Take your job serious, be technical and help the landowners,” Castro said. “But remember to have fun while doing your job.”
For more information on employment with NRCS Texas, visit USAJobs.
–Angela Sims, Public Affairs Specialist
USDA NRCS Texas