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On March 31, 2014, American Farmland Trust, Women Food and Agriculture Network, and DeKalb
County Farm Bureau are co-hosting a “Women Caring for the Land” conservation
discussion and free field tour in Sycamore, Illinois. Women who own or manage farmland in DeKalb
and surrounding counties are invited to participate. "This free workshop offers a unique
opportunity for women landowners to come together to share and learn about land
conservation options," said Dan Kenney, with the DeKalb County Farmland
Foundation. Staff from the sponsoring
organizations, the Natural Resources Conservation Services and Kane County will be on hand to discuss conservation and
farmland preservation options. Space is
limited for this unique opportunity–-RSVP to Teresa Bullock at American
Farmland Trust by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling .
On March 13, 2014, the final of three successful Conservation Cropping Seminars was held at Heartland
Community College in Normal, Illinois. "We were ecstatic at the response to these seminars," remarked Joe
Bybee, with the Illinois Department of Agriculture. "Approximately 450 farmers, industry,
academia and government agency staff were present for some great
discussion." The seminars’ theme was
managing conservation cropping systems-–utilizing together three best
management practices: cover crops, conservation tillage, and nutrient
management. "Farmers often say they want
more time to chat with their peers, industry professionals, and researchers,"
commented Robert "Woody" Woodruff with the Illinois Stewardship Alliance, "So we included one and a half hours at each
session to networking, and it was successful!"
About 20 businesses and organizations co-sponsored the events,
including American Farmland Trust, Monsanto,Illinois Department of
Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service and Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. Plans
for 2015 are underway-–January 27th in DeKalb, February 4th in Mattoon and February 18th in Macomb.
The National Conference on Cover Crops and Soil Health,
held February 17-19, 2014, in Omaha, Nebraska, brought 300 agricultural
and innovators together to explore how to make American agriculture more
sustainable through improved soil health. Attendees from agricultural
industry, the farm community, academia,
government, commodity and conservation organizations wrestled with the
question "Can we achieve 20 million acres of cover crops by 2020?" Jen
Filipiak, who was
in attendance for American Farmland Trust, said, "The first full day we
learned about new
research with cover crops and soil health. The second day was divided
into small working groups to address barriers
to cover crop adoption–-what research, outreach, or markets need to be
The plenary sessions, recorded
and available online, were broadcast at more than 200 Natural Resources
Conservation Service (NRCS) and Extension offices nationwide to an additional
6,000 farmers and agricultural professionals, allowing them to participate and
engage in local conversations. The conference was sponsored by the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) and The Howard G. Buffett Foundation.
American Farmland Trust is proud to have sponsored the National Farmers Union
“Women Making Waves” conference January 11–14. Approximately 60 women farmers and ranchers, including American Farmland
Trust’s Susan Sink and Jen Filipiak, were in attendance, learning the
finer points of business, estate and transition planning in a three-day curriculum
provided by Annie’s Project.
the Midwest, we estimate that women currently own about half of the
agricultural land, and that percentage is growing,” Filipiak noted.
“American Farmland Trust is
growing its programming for women and this was a great opportunity to
learning about what women need to be better farmers and leaders in
agriculture.” Several accomplished women leaders were in
attendance, including U.S. Department of Agriculture Deputy Secretary
Krysta Harden, and Jane Alexander, the first woman deputy secretary of
agriculture in the United States. The group was large enough to showcase
diversity in geography, type
of farming, and age but small enough to facilitate learning from
At the first of three “2014 Conservation Cropping Seminars” in
Mendota, Illinois on January 28, over 150 farmers, crop consultants and other agriculture conservation professionals
learned the ways in which conservation tillage, cover crops and nutrient
management can work together for optimum yields and healthy soils.
most enlightening part of the day for me was a Q&A session between the
audience and three farmers with years of cover crop experience,” said Elliott
Lagacy, a farmer and area representative for the Illinois Department of
Agriculture. Attendees also re-visited Chemistry 101 with Ken Ferrie, learning
about the many ways in which nitrogen cycles through our air, water and
Dozier, Illinois’ State Conservationist with Natural Resources Conservation Services, summed up the lessons of the
day, “It was a great day for farmers to learn how they can use many different
conservation practices to build healthy soil and provide resiliency to their
whole system. They are learning more ways to protect profits and our natural
more seminars are scheduled in Illinois: February 27 in Mt Vernon and March 13 in
American Farmland Trust
is co-sponsoring an American Society of Agronomy Cover Crop webinar series. As cover cropping becomes a more
widely used practice for building and protecting soil health in agriculture, farmers
are in need of more complex technical assistance as they shift their operations
to a rotation that includes cover crops. The webinars will feature a technical expert along with a farmer
experienced with cover crops to discuss such topics as maximizing yields
through better soil health, seed selection, cover crop termination, and
combining cover crops with livestock and manure. Webinars are free and will air every Thursday
in March at 12:00PM CST. Registration is required: https://www.agronomy.org/education/online-courses
farmers interested in learning how
conservation practices can help their farms be more profitable will have
opportunity at any of three regional meetings. American Farmland Trust
with partners, including the Illinois Department of Agriculture,
USDA-NRCS, Illinois Stewardship Alliance and several county Soil &
Districts organized the Illinois Conservation Cropping Seminars for this
winter. The meetings feature several conservation experts and a webcast
Howard Buffett, a strong supporter of agricultural conservation cropping
systems. “This has been a great collaborative project for AFT and its
partners to promote cover crops and soil health,” said Michael Baise,
Trust Midwest director. “The objective
of the seminars is not only to help farmers improve the economic
of their operations, but their environmental stewardship as well.” More
information, including seminar dates and locations, can be found on the American Farmland Trust website.
Michael Baise, American Farmland Trust Midwest director, has been named to the Department of Agricultural and Consumer
Economics External Advisory Committee for a three-year term. Professor and
Department Head Dr. Paul Ellinger made the announcement January 10th.
“I am pleased to be invited to serve my graduate school institution in any
advisory capacity and I am especially interested in learning more about the
Department’s new research center on farmland, the TIAA-CREF
Center for Farmland Research,” said Baise. “The Department of Agricultural and
Consumer Economics is highly ranked nationally among
institutions that offer teaching and research in this field so I am flattered to
be invited and look forward to getting back on campus.”
December 3 at their annual training meeting, Illinois Soil and Water
Conservation District (SWCD) employees were treated to the comedic stylings
of American Farmland Trust’s Midwest Director Michael Baise and our partner in
conservation, Dan Towery (Ag Conservation Solutions). They engaged the
post-lunch crowd by role playing a conversation between a farmer experienced
with managing cover crops (Dan) and a farmer new to the practice (Michael). Cover
crops are a hot topic all over the Midwest this year, and American Farmland Trust
is partnering with the SWCDs to provide education and outreach. Michael said “Dan and I were very pleased with
the reception. I could tell our role
play was successful by the questions we got from the crowd”. This lighthearted, but informative, session
was the most popular of the day. Dan
noted that “it is important to have a little fun when you are also providing
future of farmland in Illinois was the center of a June 26 women-only
learning circle for female landowners in Mattoon, Illinois. Hosted by
American Farmland Trust, Prairie Rivers and the Women, Food and Agriculture
Network, the meeting brought Illinois women landowners together with women from
local partner organizations—the farm bureaus and the Soil and Water Conservation
Districts in Coles and Douglas counties—to discuss conservation practices on their
farmland. The women discussed the need to improve soil health, address invasive
species and pass a new Farm Bill. When confronted with the application process
for federal conservation programs, one participant remarked, “I feel like there
is some kind of secret society I don’t belong to with an alphabet soup of
acronyms.” An afternoon tour included stops to see wetland restoration, native
grass buffers along ditches, hedge rows, cover crops, grass waterways, and
stabilization structures. With four inches of rain the night before, it was
easy to see that the conservation practices had helped protect the soil and
prevent erosion. Learn
more about AFT’s work to empower women landowners.
Farmland Trust has been helping the Kane County, Illinois, Health and Community
Services Departments with a Health Impact
Assessment (HIA) to review the
potential impacts of amending the county’s farmland protection ordinance
make land available for local food production. American Farmland Trust
conducted research, reviewed the ordinance, identified
indicators and engaged Dave Swenson
from Iowa State University, to assess the potential
economic contribution of increasing fruit and vegetable production in
the county. “This work is a valuable lesson in the changing demands on
programs,” explains Julia Freedgood, Managing Director of Farmland and
Community Initiatives at American Farmland Trust. The research found
2,157 acres of a
representative sample of 24 crops could
serve about 445,000 people in the greater Chicago metro region,
approximately $15 million in annual economic activity and create more
new jobs. Visit the HIA website to access the Kane County Health Impact Assessment Report.
Although many Illinois farmers are interested in improving soil health, the “Prairie State” lags behind its Midwest neighbors in adoption of cover crops within corn and soybean cropping systems. To help Illinois farmers catch up, AFT is working closely with the Illinois Department of Agriculture and soil and water conservation districts throughout the state, empowering them to hold educational events on cover crop’s role in soil health.
“Farmers often ask, ‘How do I get started on cover crops?’ said AFT Midwest Director Mike Baise. “They prefer smaller, more direct learning opportunities, as opposed to larger group settings. We do everything we can to facilitate this type of learning and to connect farmers with the information and resources they need.”
As part of this effort, AFT is partnering with county soil and water conservation districts and the Illinois Stewardship Alliance to sponsor field days where Illinois farmers can share information and ideas around cover crops. The field days are being planned for late summer to early fall in Champaign County, McLean, Montgomery, and Morgan Counties. (Additional counties may be added, so stay tuned.)
Additionally, AFT is helping to promote a new cover crops website and a project demonstrating cover crops along state highways, in partnership with the Illinois Department of Agriculture. The Department plans to go online with the website in early July.
“Next winter we hope people drive by and notice that the cover crop demonstration fields are green and alive while everything else is brown,” Baise explains. “I think it will be a powerful educational tool and stimulus for further adoption of cover crops.”
Baise, Midwest Director for American Farmland Trust, has recently been
reappointed to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) Advisory Committee on Agriculture Statistics. In this role, Baise helps to advise the U.S. Secretary of
Agriculture and NASS on the conduct of the agricultural census and surveys,
critical tools in helping to understand the landscape of American agriculture.
“I am pleased to be reappointed by Secretary Vilsack,” said Baise. “U.S. farmers,
agribusinesses and consumers depend on the valuable information gathered
through the various NASS surveys, crop reports and Agricultural Census. NASS
employees work hard to provide accurate and timely information so crucial to
making sound agricultural policy and business decisions.” Congratulations,
All farmers and ranchers know preparing for the year ahead starts with looking back at the bright spots and challenges from the seasons before. At AFT, we’re proud that in 2012 we rallied farmers and citizens alike to advocate on behalf of protecting farm and ranch land. Our innovative projects helped family farmers pioneer sound farming practices, which help to preserve our land and water resources. We also laid the groundwork to keep farmers on the land by providing tools and resources that allow them to thrive.
We’re sharing accomplishments and inspiration from 2012 in the words of our expert staff.
As farm couples age, typically women live longer than men. After they become widows, women are frequently in charge of a very valuable asset—meaning the farmland—and they may or may not have been engaged in dealing with government programs or some of the institutions that impact the farmland itself. I thought there’s an opportunity here, a niche for American Farmland Trust to play in helping educate and empower women who own or control the land. Through conversations with my AFT colleague, Ann Sorensen, I found that we both had that same thinking in common. So we are making the case those women landowners have a lot of influence on who rents the land and whether or not conservation will be applied to the land.
Read more from Midwest Director Mike Baise
Illinois farmers, environmental advocates and agricultural industry partners have cause to celebrate new legislation to help farmers deliver significant improvements in water quality. The bill is part of the Keep it for the Crop (KIC 2025) initiative, which is supported by a coalition of agricultural and environmental organizations working to improve nutrient management. “When enacted this legislation will go a long way to educate farmers and the public about the best management practices of nutrient management. A portion of the fees will also support the fertilizer program at the Illinois Department of Agricultur," explained Mike Baise, Midwest Director for American Farmland Trust, . Congratulations to our Illinois partners for getting this landmark legislation passed.”
Mike Baise, Midwest Director for American Farmland Trust, recently joined the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service State Technical Committee in two states—Indiana and Illinois. Appointed by Jane Hardisty, Indiana State Conservationist, and Ivan Dozier, Illinois State Conservationist, respectively, these committees work across each state to implement conservation legislation and programs supported through the farm bill. “Mike is well-deserving of these appointments,” says Ann Sorensen, Director of Research at American Farmland Trust. “He brings a unique passion and enthusiastic vision to the work of American Farmland Trust throughout the Midwest. We are excited that he can bring these qualities to help shape critical conservation work in both Indiana and Illinois.”
The face of American agriculture is undergoing a dramatic shift. As the overall farm population ages during the next 20 years, 70 percent of farmland is expected to change hands and women may own up to 75 percent of the land that is transferred. On April 16, American Farmland Trust’s Center for Agriculture in the Environment and Midwest office, along with the Women, Food and Agriculture Network and local partners, hosted the first Lady Landowners Learning Circle in Illinois. Twenty-two women took part and shared their stories about managing their family’s farmland, and the workshop was featured on Iowa Public Radio as part of broader outreach to female landowners. “The next 10 years represent a significant window of opportunity for engaging women landowners in conservation,” said Ann Sorensen, Director of Research at American Farmland Trust. “We must act now before the next wave of land transitions begins.”
From the steps of the capitol building in Madison, Wisconsin, to farm fields stretching across Minnesota to Ohio, 2011 has been a year of bringing people together. Farmers and citizens alikeare fighting for policies and programs that will keep farmland in farming, while new opportunities are evolving to help farmers be better stewards of the land.
As we prepare for the challenges and opportunities of the year ahead,you can read more about our accomplishments in the Midwest from the past year.
We have been working with farmers and partners in Illinois to address natural resource concerns in central Illinois. The project, Stewarding Farms and Water in the Upper Salt Fork Watershed, focuses on conservation practices to reduce environmental impacts while producing profitable crops. On August 16, 2011, local farmers
participated in a tour showcasing participating farms.
Agriculture represents one of the most cost-effective ways to improve water quality. With high levels of nutrient runoff from Illinois watersheds, Best Management Practices (BMPs) used by farmers can positively impact the environment and, when done right, also improve the farmer’s bottom line. Our BMP Challenge is a crop yield guarantee that helps farmers adopt conservation practices by overcoming the barrier of risk. In a recent webinar, Targeted Application of the BMP Challengein East Central Illinois and the Illiana region [ZIP file] (web video coming soon), we addressed the basics of the program and more about what we are trying to do with the BMP Challenge in the area.
Midwest: The Year in Review
American Farmland Trust has fought to protect farmland in the Midwest for 27 years. Sometimes called America’s breadbasket, the Midwest is blessed with prime farmland soils that are the envy of the world, but we know we can’t afford to take these priceless resources for granted. That’s why we’ve been hard at work in this important region, and have made significant progress over the past year.
Northern Counties Scan Horizon for an Agricultural Future
Illinois agricultural land is being developed at an increasingly fast pace, especially in rural and suburban landscapes. Although preservation of farmland and agricultural activities are not highly prioritized for all communities, it is important to realize that preservation in only some areas will still benefit an entire region.
Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) is the comprehensive regional planning organization for the seven counties of northeastern Illinois. By state and federal law, CMAP is responsible for producing the region's official, integrated plan for land use and transportation. The agency's innovative GO TO 2040 planning campaign will develop and implement strategies to address projected population and employment growth and its serious implications for transportation, housing, economic development, open space, the environment, and other quality of life issues. CMAP's strategy for agricultural preservation—which outlines the importance of agriculture to northeastern Illinois and the costs and benefits associated with preservation—can be found at GO TO 2040 website and the public is strongly encouraged to give feedback and participate in shaping the plan.
center for agriculture in the environment
Our Center for Agriculture in the Environment (CAE), located in DeKalb, helps protect America's agricultural lands and encourage healthy farming practices. CAE works closely with the academic, environmental and agricultural communities
to raise awareness of issues by providing research and strong academic arguments for wise public policy.
2717 Blue Ridge Court
Bloomington, IN 47408
To learn more about agriculture in your state, visit the Illinois state profile page at the Farmland Information Center.