However, the love of nature perhaps had a more profound effect on Chew, as he studied life science and ecology at Indiana State University. His career path has led him to the Indiana State Department of Agriculture-Division of Soil Conservation (ISDA-DSC).
On Monday, his hard work for the state and its resources paid off when he was named director of the ISDA-DSC. Chew will begin his new position effective Monday, April 6.
"It is an honor and privilege to be appointed to this position," said Chew. "I look forward to the opportunity to further serve Indiana agriculture and communities across the state in my new capacity."
While the 1993 South Putnam graduate had enjoyed nature throughout his youth, it was three summers working for the state that led him on his career path.
"Growing up in Putnam County, it's pretty rich in natural resources. There are lots of hills and hollows and trees and streams," Chew said. "I actually worked three different summers at Lieber State Recreation Area. I think that, personally, really brought out a lot of my interest in working in this field.
"But of course, growing up in Putnam County and being around farming, forests, fishing and all of those things really put me as a person who wanted to work in natural resources and conservation," he added.
Chew comes into his new job with high praises from high places.
"Jerod has a strong commitment to conservation," Lieutenant Governor and Secretary of Agriculture Becky Skillman said. "His dedication to Indiana's soil and water resources and the partnerships that get conservation on the land will play an essential role in moving our resource stewardship initiatives forward."
The mission of the ISDA-DSC is to provide technical, financial and educational assistance needed to implement economically and environmentally compatible land and water stewardship decisions, practices and technologies. The ISDA-DSC employs district support specialists and resource specialists across the state that work with local, state and federal partners to implement resource stewardship projects.
"Stewardship of our natural resources is a critical issue for Indiana agriculture and a priority for the State Department of Agriculture," said Indiana Agriculture Director Anne Hazlett. "Our producers, landowners and communities will be well-served by Jerod's education, background and passion for conservation."
The issue of stewardship is at the top of Chew's priority list as he takes his new office.
"The biggest challenge is that Indiana is a big state. We're rich in natural resources. There are lots of good things happening out there, and I'm hoping to just continue that and to enhance things like no-till, cover crops, field borders -- basically, sediment and nutrient reduction type practices around the state. There's a lot of that to be done," Chew said.
"One of the things I like to say is we all live downstream. That kind of encapsulates some of the focus of what we're driving for within the division," he added.
Chew has had various roles in the Division of Soil Conservation. Most recently, for the last four years, he has served as assistant director of the ISDA-DSC and has been responsible for managing the division's field staff and technical services.
Chew's experience also includes working as an outdoor educator for Bradford Woods, a wildlife research assistance for Indiana State University, and in various natural resources education positions.
He will draw on his varied experience as he takes the lead of the entire division. He will also strive to balance his work in the office with continuing to gain experience and knowledge in the field.
"The primary focus of my job is going to be working with our technical staff out in the field to promote and enhance stewardship and care of our natural resources throughout Indiana," Chew said. "As the director, it's definitely part of my job to get out and understand what's going on in agriculture and natural resources around the state."
Chew currently resides in Greencastle with his wife Amy, also a South Putnam graduate, and their sons Keaton and Landon. He is the son of Lee and Julie Chew of Greencastle.
As he settles into his new job, Chew plans to continue the hard work that got him there.
"I've hoped for this for a while, and I'm just hoping to do a good job at it," he concluded.