AFT Provides Leadership in Developing Valuable Resources for Illinois Farmers - American Farmland Trust

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AFT Provides Leadership in Developing Valuable Resources for Illinois Farmers

Torey Colburn, Conservation Agronomist for American Farmland Trust, promotes AFT programs to Illinois farmers.

American Farmland Trust is a leading member of the Illinois Sustainable Ag Partnership (ISAP), a member-based non-profit organization working collaboratively to encourage the adoption of sustainable and profitable production practices that improve soil health and restore local waters. This week, ISAP published a new resource for Illinois farmers and farm advisors which clearly communicates the role of soil health practices in addressing agronomic challenges and resource concerns.

An Introduction to Soil Health Practices identifies and explains the causes of several conditions that can lead to common resource or agronomic concerns for farmers, including erosion, compaction, weed pressure, and nutrient loss. The 30-page guidebook highlights practical benefits that can be achieved through the adoption of conservation practices, focusing on practices that have potential for statewide application. American Farmland Trust had an out-sized role in developing this ISAP resource, with three dedicated members of the AFT team providing leadership and coordination throughout the year-long design and drafting process.

Torey Colburn, Midwest conservation agronomist with American Farmland Trust, served as a co-author of the guidebook with Frank Rademacher of The Nature Conservancy. Colburn has 14 years of experience as an agronomic advisor in Central and Northern Illinois, helping farmers to better understand factors contributing to poor field conditions and advising them on solutions to address the issues. Drawing on their professional experience and the guidance of ISAP’s scientific experts, Torey and Frank developed this introductory, yet comprehensive, resource to guide Illinois farmers on their journey to incorporate conservation practices on their farms to improve field conditions, suppress weed pressure, maximize nutrient efficiency, and build soil health.

Throughout the drafting process, Colburn worked closely with his AFT colleagues, Jean Brokish and Helen VanBeck, who both serve as coordinators of ISAP. Jean Brokish, Midwest deputy director for American Farmland Trust, provided oversight and project management for the development of the ISAP guidebook, calling on her expertise in soil science, conservation practice adoption, and the Illinois agricultural landscape. Brokish also facilitated discussions among the several review committees, including the ISAP Science Advisory Committee, a review team of Illinois researchers, and a review team of farmers across the state, which were established to provide guidance on how best to communicate technical information and scientific data throughout the guidebook.

Helen VanBeck (right) and Jean Brokish (middle) table for ISAP with Megan Baskerville (left), ISAP President and Ag Director with The Nature Conservancy (left).

In addition to technical information and scientific research, An Introduction to Soil Health Practices also features the stories of six Illinois farmers, sharing their personal experiences of finding success by adopting soil health practices on their farms. Individual feature articles for each farmer were written by Helen VanBeck, Midwest program specialist with American Farmland Trust and ISAP Coordinator, who also provided overall coordination amongst the many players involved in developing the guidebook. Based on interviews with each of the farmers, the longer farmer profile articles highlight each farmer’s journey in adopting conservation practices on their farms and provide practical, real-world examples of how these practices can lead to successful, profitable, and resilient farms.

Andrew Rueschel shares his experience with strip-tillage in the ISAP soil health guidebook.

An Introduction to Soil Health Practices will be a valuable resource for Illinois farmers looking for information and guidance on how conservation practices can work for them, and American Farmland Trust is proud to have provided technical expertise and coordination support for the creation of this resource. ISAP’s “Introduction to Soil Health Practices” and the full farmer profiles can be accessed online at, and printed copies can be requested by emailing










About the Author
Piero Taico

Midwest Communications Manager


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