Positive Impacts and Stronger Communities

Jennifer Filipiak

At this time, every year, farmers can rejoice in the end of this years’ harvest—pumpkins have been picked, corn and beans have been harvested, and the fields have been winterized. As 2018 comes to a close here at the Midwest Office, our office positively looks back at all of the milestones we have achieved as a strong team. We are excited to continue to bring what we learn on the ground with Midwestern farmers and landowners to our growing national initiatives at all levels.

  •  New Hires and New Office: With a nod to the past, and looking toward future growth, we have opened a Midwest office
    in Sycamore, IL, very close to our original Midwestern “home” at Northern Illinois University where we were located from 1992-2014. As our team grows, we needed a good space to anchor our operations. This year also brought in two new employees to the Midwest who will further help our work in Ohio and Illinois.
  • Illinois Agriculture Leadership Program: The prestigious and long-running Illinois Agriculture Leadership Program, IALP, is a 9-month, dynamic development program that focuses on building the skills, knowledge, and character of leaders. This past year, Midwest Deputy Director Kris Reynolds was accepted into the 2018/2019 cadre of agricultural leaders. We support furthering our team’s education and opportunities and are elated that our very own deputy director will become an IALP alumni.

  • Farming for Cleaner Water in Ohio: In November, we were awarded funds to initiate a new project in the Upper Scioto River watershed of central Ohio, which is the drinking water source area for the City of Columbus. With generous funding from the Harte Charitable Foundation, we will bring together the agricultural and municipal sectors to find mutually beneficial, long-term solutions to protecting local drinking water and helping water quality in the Gulf of Mexico. The project’s primary goals will be to:
    • Drive awareness and adoption of the best farming practices to achieve both cleaner water and farmer/landowner profitability goals
    • Use a market-based approach to facilitate an agricultural-municipal partnership to achieve these landscape-level goals.
  • Awarded Conservation Innovation Grant to Accelerate Adoption of Soil Health Practices: AFT will work in six watersheds across five states (California, Illinois, Ohio, New York, and Virginia) to quantify the benefits experienced by 24 farmers who have already implemented soil health practices like reduced tillage, cover crops, nutrient management, crop rotation, and more. This project gives us the opportunity to explore the economic benefits of soil health in multiple regions and cropping systems across the United States. 
  • Women for the Land Learning Circles & Non-Operating Landowners: Our “Women for the Land” Initiative is thriving
    and continues advocating for new federal and state policies and programs that engage women landowners and farmers, including non-operating landowners. In the Midwest, we’ve held many successful learning circles that empowered women living in both rural and urban communities. We look forward to releasing new information on a summary of Illinois and Indiana non-operating women landowners. This will be some of the most comprehensive research on the effectiveness of women-dedicated learning circles.

  • Environmental Markets Handbook: In February, American Farmland Trust and the National Association of Conservation Districts, or NACD, collaborated to release a three-year-research project called “Handbook for Conservation Districts on Environmental Markets.” The 72-page guide is a powerful resource for communities and conservation districts that want to protect their water quality and support environmental markets. The handbook presents case studies on places like the Ohio River Basin, where AFT and the Electric Power Research Institute, EPRI, have collaborated with conservation districts, power companies, farmers, state and federal agencies, and other interests since 2009 to reduce pollution and improve the health of the Ohio River, which flows into the Mississippi and eventually the Gulf of Mexico.

As we look back with pride at a successful year of growth, we look forward to a 2019 full of meaningful work to “save the land that sustains us” and to support the farmers and landowners that sustain our land. With an even larger and stronger Midwest team, we look forward to a New Year and to pursuing new and exciting opportunities.