AFT Hires New Midwest Program Coordinator to Strengthen Relationships and Opportunities

 

My six-year-old daughter was helping her Aunt Sherry and Uncle Mike feed the calves last spring when she put down the bucket of mineral supplement and declared “farming is sure hard work!”

I couldn’t agree more.

Growing up on a dairy farm in southwest Wisconsin instilled in me the value of hard work. It also provided me the importance of taking care of the land; the rolling hills of the Wisconsin Driftless Area offer a beauty that requires one to pause in order to take it all in, and they also require thoughtful stewardship.

Jean’s daughter helps with chores on Aunt Sherry and Uncle Mike’s farm

I didn’t really understand the beauty or value of the place when I was young, but I did understand that agriculture was important and that it comes with a responsibility to care for the land. I carried this understanding with me through my undergraduate degree in agronomy and continued carrying it through my graduate degree in soil science. It is something that I still carry with me.

This understanding has shaped my career choices and has created opportunities for me that I would never have imagined. I’ve had the opportunity to promote strip tillage to farmers in northwest Ohio, teach agriculture in Lesotho, and work with families to preserve farmland in Michigan. It didn’t stop there. I also supported the implementation of best management practices that improved water quality on farms in Hawaii.

Jean supported BMP implementation for water quality on Hawaii farms through her job at Oahu RC&D

I have no doubt this deep understanding of the land will be helpful as I begin my new position as Midwest program coordinator with American Farmland Trust. I am excited to work with stakeholders in the Vermilion Headwaters to identify nutrient loss reduction strategies appropriate for local farms.

I also look forward to strengthening relationships and building capacity through the Illinois Sustainable Agriculture Partnership, or ISAP. ISAP is a unique partnership because it brings together a diverse group of individuals from organizations across the state of Illinois. As a coordinated and consistent group, ISAP focuses on messaging, outreach, training, and education for farmers and their trusted advisors to bring together and disseminate new information and lessons learned in plain, practical language. Members work collaboratively to amplify the programs of each organization, share resources to gain efficiencies and identify synergies in achieving soil health and nutrient goals in the state of Illinois.

American Farmland Trust is an organization that stands out to me on many levels—AFT supports all types of farming, farmers, and land. Most importantly though, I look forward to learning from the people who work hard every day to grow our food and take care of the land.