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Grant Opportunity! For Illinois Growers to Reduce Pesticide Reliance

Snapshot of Illinois Agriculture

Farming on the Edge: Illinois Farmland in the Path of Development


The Apple as Planet Earth Presentation
The Apple As Planet Earth

Do you know how much of the earth is suitable for farming? Watch the video and learn why protecting our farmland is so important.

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Did you know that the state of Illinois has been losing more than 65 acres of farmland per day? You have the power to help save our farms and farmland. You can directly support Illinois farmers and farmers markets by taking these simple actions.
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Women Caring for the Land Conservation Discussion in Sycamore, Illinois

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 tbullock@niu.edu or calling .


Successful Conservation Cropping Seminar was Held in Normal, Illinois

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.


National Conference on Cover Crops and Soil Health

CoverCrop.jpgThe National Conference on Cover Crops and Soil Health, held February 17-19, 2014, in Omaha, Nebraska, brought 300 agricultural leaders 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 developed?"

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.


National Farmers Union "Women Making Waves" Conference a Success

American Farmland Trust is proud to have sponsored the National Farmers Union “Women Making Waves” conference January 1114. 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.

“In 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 continue 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 attendees’ personal stories.

2014 Conservation Cropping Seminars in Illinois

Frozen FieldAt 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.

“The 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 crops. Ivan 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 resources.”

Two more seminars are scheduled in Illinois: February 27 in Mt Vernon and March 13 in Normal.

American Society of Agronomy Cover Crop Webinar Series

IL-cover-crop-2.jpgAmerican 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

American Farmland Trust Promotes Illinois Conservation Cropping Seminars

Conservation CroppingIllinois farmers interested in learning how conservation practices can help their farms be more profitable will have the 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 & Water Conservation Districts organized the Illinois Conservation Cropping Seminars for this winter. The meetings feature several conservation experts and a webcast from Howard Buffett, a strong supporter of agricultural conservation cropping systems. “This has been a great collaborative project for AFT and its Illinois partners to promote cover crops and soil health,” said Michael Baise, American Farmland Trust Midwest director. “The objective of the seminars is not only to help farmers improve the economic sustainability 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.


American Farmland Trust Midwest Director Named to University of Illinois Departmental Advisory Committee

Illinois UniversityMichael 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.”


Illinois Soil and Water Conservation District Annual Training Meeting

SWDCTrainningOn 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 information.”

Women Farmland Owners Share and Learn About Conservation at Illinois Learning Circle

Women Landowners Learning Circle in Cole County, IllinoisThe 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 organizationsthe 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.

Assessing the Economic Impact of Local Food Production for Kane County, Illinois

Farmer holding vegetablesAmerican 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 to 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 farmland protection 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, contribute approximately $15 million in annual economic activity and create more than 100 new jobs. Visit the HIA website to access the Kane County Health Impact Assessment Report


What's Cropping Up in Illinois?

Midwest field with young wheat plantsAlthough 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.”

American Farmland Trust Midwest Director Accepts Reappointment to Agricultural Statistics Advisory Committee

Mike Baise, Midwest Director, American Farmland TrustMike 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, Mike!

Protecting Farmland by the Acre—and the Inch—in the Midwest

Farmer driving tractor in corn fieldAll 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 Passes Legislation to Help Farmers and Water Quality

Midwest cornfieldIllinois 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.”

American Farmland Trust Midwest Director Appointed to State Conservation CommitteesAmerican Farmland Trust Midwest Director Mike Baise

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.”

Female Landowners in Illinois Share Their Stories About Farmslearning circle

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.” 

A Year of Progress in the MidwestField and farm in the Midwest

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.

Stewarding Farms and Water in IllinoisUpper Salt Fork River in Illinois

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.

Webinar Provides Overview of BMP Challenge

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.


Boy in CornfieldMidwest: 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 farm on the edge of ChicagoIllinois 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.

Contact Us
Michael Baise
Midwest Director
2717 Blue Ridge Court
Bloomington, IN 47408
(317) 508-0756

To learn more about agriculture in your state, visit the Illinois state profile page at the Farmland Information Center.

American Farmland Trust