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Trust has hired Jennifer Filipiak for the newly created Natural
Resource Conservationist position in the Midwest region. The position is
designed to support American Farmland Trust's activities in promoting
conservation best management
practices to farmers, increasing use of cover crops, developing
markets, encouraging farmland protection, and engaging women farmland
conservation. “Jen brings a wealth of experience to American Farmland
says Midwest Director Michael Baise. “She most recently led conservation
programs promoting sustainable agriculture for the Illinois Stewardship
Alliance. She has rich experience with The Nature Conservancy in Iowa
watershed projects and supporting conservation with scientific planning
expertise, project management and grant administration. We are lucky to
her on board.” Filipiak holds a BS
degree in biology and ecology from Northern Michigan University; and an
MS in wildlife ecology from
Southern Illinois-Carbondale. She begins her work with American Farmland
Trust on October 21 and will be located in Bloomington, Illinois.
in the Upper Salt Fork watershed in Champaign County, Illinois, are planting cover crops this fall at an unprecedented rate. American Farmland Trust and the
Champaign County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) offered to help
with the cost of cover crop applications. Jonathon Manual, the local SWCD
resource conservationist, reports that as of the last week in September more
than 20 farmers had applied for the incentive covering nearly 2,100 acres with
many more expected. “Jonathon is quite excited about the response to our offer
to help cover application costs” said Mike Baise, American Farmland Trust's Midwest director. “He
expects more farmers to apply soon, as there have been planes doing aerial
applications for several days.” The project, Accelerating the Adoption of Cover Crops in Illinois, encourages
the conservation practice in several Illinois counties.
with seven central Illinois Soil and Water Conservation Districts,
American Farmland Trust is providing cover crop educational programs to
encourage farmers to learn more about the soil health benefits of cover
cropping. Interest in cover crops is
increasing in Illinois with farmers looking to improve their soil
organic matter, nutrient retention, water infiltration and many other
positive soil attributes. Attendance at the meetings held in August and
September far exceeded expectations. “Farmer participation at these
events is surprising and encouraging. We were expecting to get about 25
per meeting but have been averaging more like 60,” explained Mike Baise,
Midwest director for American Farmland Trust.
During the very hot days of
August 27 to 29, American Farmland Trust’s Midwest Director Mike Baise
participated in the Partners in Conservation tent at the Farm Progress Show in Decatur, Illinois.
Baise was joined by farmer cover crop experts along with the Illinois
Department of Agriculture, the Practical Farmers of Iowa, the Illinois
Stewardship Alliance, and the Council for Best Management Practices. In spite
of the heat, an estimated 2,000 farmers passed through the tent during the
three day event where Baise helped spread AFT’s No Farms No Food® message. “The
Partners in Conservation at the Farm Progress Show were thrilled at the level
of interest in cover crops,” said
Director for American Farmland Trust, Mike Baise, will be at the Partners in Conservation Tent
at the 2013 Farm Progress Show in Decatur, Illinois, August 27 to 29. Come
visit the Partners in Conservation tent, learn about soil health and the latest
conservation issues facing farmers and talk Mike out of a No Farms No Food® bumper sticker for your favorite vehicle. Joining
American Farmland Trust will be the Practical Farmers of Iowa, the Buffett
Foundation’s massive cover crop roller, the Illinois Stewardship Alliance and
many other dedicated conservation organizations. We hope to see you there!
120 farmers and landowners packed into a cover crop informational meeting held
by the Rock Island and Mercer counties’ Soil and Water Conservation Districts
on August 1 in Reynolds, Illinois. The meeting is one among many cover crop
educational events in several targeted Illinois counties sponsored by American
Farmland Trust. The events seek to inform farmers and landowners about the
benefits of growing cover crops, including improved soil health. The Reynolds
meeting featured Dr. Joel Gruver of Western Illinois University and two
experienced farmers, Cade Bushnell of Northern, Illinois, and Steve Berger of
Wellman, Iowa. American Farmland Trust was represented by Midwest Director Mike Baise, and Dan
Towery, a well-known cover crop consultant and former Illinois Natural Resources Conservation Service state agronomist. Read
about cover crops on our website and stayed tuned for more opportunities in
Illinois to learn about cover crops.
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.
in cover crops and soil health? American Farmland Trust is helping sponsor an
educational event in Champaign County, Illinois, so mark your calendar for June
28 from 8 am to noon. “Some of the big names in Midwest cover crops are coming
to share their information,” explained Mike Baise, American Farmland
Trust’s Midwest Director. Presentation
topics include Soil Health, Cover Crops 101 and Chemical Effects on Cover Crops. Three
CEUs have been applied for, and Seed Dealers and Custom Applicators will be
available for direct personal attention and show you what they have to
offer. This meeting will be held in the
Champaign County Farm Bureau and University of Illinois Extension Building at
801 N County Fair Drive in Champaign. Please register by June 25 with the
Champaign County Soil and Water Conservation District. A $10 registration includes handouts and
Trust’s Midwest office continues to reach out to women who own
farmland. On June 12, a
women-only learning circle in Princeton, Illinois, one of several
gatherings convened by American Farmland Trust, Prairie Rivers and the
Food and Agriculture Network, brought women landowners in Illinois
with other women who can help them. Twenty-five
women landowners and owner-operators attended; collectively they own or
operate about 9,000 acres of farmland in four Illinois counties.
Discussion centered on ways to prevent soil erosion and improve soil
ways to manage hay and pasture lands, how to determine cash or
rental rates, and ways to work effectively with tenants to improve
on the land. The afternoon field tour
featured examples of practices on nearby farms. Inspired by the session,
participants concluded, “Ladies, it’s time to get more involved, know
staff and work with our tenants to place conservation on the land that
more about American Farmland Trust’s work to empower women landowners.
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
October 31 and November 1, American Farmland Trust, Sand County Foundation,
Iowa Soybean Association and The Nature Conservancy convened the third meeting
of leaders involved with water quality projects in the Midwest. Forty-four
leaders from Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Indiana and Illinois exchanged
information about their USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service Mississippi
River Basin Initiative (MRBI) projects. The group discussed ways to engage
farmers, target efforts and scale up pilot efforts into broader initiatives.
Overall, they identified two trends for project success: completing a watershed
plan with local farmers and using performance-based tools that provide feedback.
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.
Anita Zurbrugg, our Midwest Director, Center for Agriculture in the Environment, will speak at the annual meeting of the Boone County, IL Farmland Protection Project on March 26. The group, one of only three organizations in Illinois that focuses on protecting farmland, is located in one of the most development-threatened counties in the Chicago metro 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.