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Grant Opportunity! For Growers to Reduce Pesticide Reliance

Snapshot of Indiana Agriculture

Farming on the Edge: Indiana 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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American Farmland Trust celebrates the sale of the nation’s first interstate water quality trading credits

On March 11, 2014, the Ohio River Basin Water Quality Trading pilot program celebrated the sale of the nation’s first interstate water quality stewardship credits. Water Quality Trading (WQT) allows facilities to meet required pollution reductions by paying farmers to install conservation practices like heavy use protection areas for livestock and cover crops that reduce pollution by specific amounts.  The resulting pollution reductions become verified credits that can be bought and sold. "American Farmland Trust provided hands-on help to farmers, state agricultural and resource agencies, and soil and water conservation districts to ensure the benefits were there for both farmers and the environment," said American Farmland Trust’s Brian Brandt, the project’s agricultural coordinator. "We also brought our experience with trading programs in other regions of the country to help the project." American Farmland Trust’s President, Andrew McElwaine, was on hand to introduce Indiana State Conservationist Jane Hardisty during the festivities, and Brian Brandt questioned the farmers about their experiences.


National Conference on Cover Crops and Soil Health

The 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.


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

Celebrating School-to-Farm in Monroe County, Indiana

Monroe County, Indiana farm School TourJoe and Joyce Peden open their Monroe County, Indiana, farm to school children to see, feel, smell and taste agriculture. This annual family tradition started with Joe’s parents in 1952. This year 2,200 children from kindergarten to third grade came to the Peden farm over two days. Learning stations operated by 200 farmers, 4-H and Future Farmers of America (FFA) volunteers taught children about agriculture and food production. Children rode on hay wagons through a cow pasture, rode horses and brushed livestock, pumped water and shelled corn the old fashioned way—by hand. They observed a blacksmith making horse shoes and churned butter. American Farmland Trust's Midwest Director Michael Baise has volunteered at the event for more than 10 years. “This is likely the only experience these children will ever have on a working farm,” Baise said. “Several teachers commented that they came here when they were children and they appreciate the Peden family for providing this rare opportunity to experience agriculture.”

Indiana Steps Up to Pilot Test a Regional Water Quality Trading Market

riparian buffers on Illinois farmAmerican Farmland Trust is hard at work in five southeastern Indiana counties—Dearborn, Ohio, Ripley, Switzerland and Wayne—helping the Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs) work with farmers to pilot test the nation’s first regional water quality trading market in the Ohio River Basin. The project is led by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and American Farmland Trust is a collaborating partner. Here’s how it works: EPRI is providing funds that flow through the state agencies in Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky to the participating SWCDs. The SWCDs then provide funds to help farmers install best management practices to reduce nutrient run-off into water and generate credits that EPRI will sell later this year to test the market.  Mike Baise, American Farmland Trust’s Midwest Director, is not surprised that the Indiana SWCDs are on the cutting edge. “Indiana is a leader in implementing practices that conserve soil and protect water quality because of the leadership of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture, our State Conservationist, Jane Hardisty, and our SWCDs,” he explains. “Their participation in this project is just one more example of helping producers balance production with environmental stewardship.”  

American Farmland Trust Leads Indiana’s First Learning Circles for Women Farmland Owners

Female farmer with pitchfork and hayAs part of on-going work to educate and empower women landowners in the Midwest, American Farmland Trust and our local partners convened a pair of three-hour informal discussions—or “learning circles”—for women farmland owners. The participants in the women-only discussion owned from 6 acres to more than 2,000 acres and were a mix of owner-operators and non-operating landowners. They discussed topics ranging from soil erosion to cover crops to conservation easements; professionals were also on-hand to answer their questions. Local partners for the learning circles were Indiana Farm Bureau, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Central Indiana Land Trust and the county farm bureaus and Soil and Water Conservation Districts of Howard and Hendricks counties. American Farmland Trust hopes to follow up with the participants and hold future session on topics such as conservation for row crops, use of cover crops, tax benefits, leasing experiences, marketing alternatives and specialty crops, keeping creeks from eroding, and pollinators.

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, Anne 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


Precision Agriculture and Water Quality Trading

Midwest-farmer-smiling.jpgAs part of our work in the Ohio River Basin, American Farmland Trust recently launched a two-year project to develop and refine the first credit estimator for precision agriculture variable rate technology (VRT) practices in water quality trading programs. Data from universities, John Deere and Trimble will compare crop uptake budgets with applied nutrients (phosphorus and nitrogen) and use modeling at the farm-field level with edge-of-field monitors to account for excess nutrients. We will test and refine the resulting protocol with farmers and Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky state regulatory agencies. The work is supported by a USDA Natural Resource Conservation Services Conservation Innovation Grant, The Mosaic Foundation and collaborating partners.

Full Speed Ahead for Interstate Water Quality Trading

Ohio River Basin Map and barnAmerican Farmland Trust met with project partners in Columbus, Ohio, on November 13 to design an online registry for the Ohio River Basin Water Quality Trading Market; review our modeling, credit calculation tools and in-stream verification procedures; and discuss our initial farmer engagements and contracts. During the next two years, the project will execute pilot trades with farmers in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana. These states signed the nation’s first interstate pilot trading plan in August 2012 to allow power plants and municipal wastewater treatment plants to purchase nutrient reductions from farmers.


American Farmland Trust Midwest Director Appointed to State Conservation Committees

American Farmland Trust Midwest Director Mike BaiseMike Baise, Midwest Director for American Farmland Trust, 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.”


Indiana Bill Will Help Ease Generational Transfer of Farmland

Cornfield in springThis spring, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels signed a bill to phase out the state inheritance tax. The plan will ease transfer of farmland and other farm assets by reducing associated inheritance taxes up until 2022, at which point the tax will be completely repealed. “With the repeal of the inheritance tax, Governor Daniels and Indiana legislatures have recognized one of the many struggles facing family farms,” says Baise. “I applaud their work to help keep farmland in production and empower the next generation of farmers.”  

Midwest: The Year in Review

Boy in CornfieldAmerican 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


farmland protection in Harrison County

With more than 108,000 agricultural acres threatened by residential development, Harrison County worked for several years—with advice and encouragement from American Farmland Trust—to implement a local program to purchase conservation easements from willing landowners. A Farmland and Open Space Conservation Survey conducted by Purdue University confirmed residents support for the county's efforts and three programs are now helping to protect important farmland:


Sunrise over Ewing Farm in Indiana
Sunrise over Mont Clair Farm courtesy of Ewing family


Sixth Oldest Farm in Indiana Is Protected 

Since 1802, the Mont Clair Farm’s productive and well managed soils have produced a bounty of food and, at times, fiber. Mark and Rebecca Ewing permanently protected the 500-acre farm this spring through a conservation easement, and described why they chose to make the decision: “Our ancestors bore numerous hardships to keep Mont Clair Farm together for this length of time. We realized the profit gained from developing our land could buy nothing more valuable than our descendants owning and appreciating the farm as it has been for seven generations.”


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 Indiana state profile page at the Farmland Information Center.

American Farmland Trust