Location: central Illinois

American Farmland Trust is the only national organization that takes a holistic approach to agriculture, focusing on the land itself, the agricultural practices used on that land, and the farmers and ranchers who do the work. AFT launched the conservation agriculture movement and continues to raise public awareness through our No Farms, No Food message. Since our founding in 1980, AFT has helped permanently protect over 6.5 million acres of agricultural lands, advanced environmentally-sound farming practices on millions of additional acres, and supported thousands of farm families. Long a pioneering leader, AFT is now riding a new wave of growth, driven by agriculture’s most pressing needs and opportunities.  

The Midwest Program Assistant position offers an exciting opportunity to help carry out the strategic agenda of a growing, forward-looking conservation organization. S/he will have the opportunity to work across teams within AFT’s Midwest Office, as well as with external partners including farmers, landowners, and agricultural professionals.  This a permanent position that will work to support and build upon AFT programs in the Midwest, providing additional programmatic assistance as AFT’s Midwest portfolio evolves. The Midwest Program Assistant will initially work with two long term AFT projects, The Illinois Sustainable Ag Partnership and The Vermilion Headwaters Watershed Partnership as described below, to provide coordination across diverse groups of partners and programs. This is a remote work position and will report directly to the Midwest Deputy Director.

Supported Programs

Illinois Sustainable Ag Partnership

Illinois agriculture faces increased pressure to improve soil health and implement agricultural management practices that maximize agricultural productivity potential while reducing environmental impacts. Several successful outreach, demonstration and research programs focused on meeting this need have developed in Illinois. To meet the goals of Illinois’ Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy (NLRS) alone, nearly all farmable acres in Illinois will have to modify management practices to some extent. While there is a growing body of “innovative” farmers that are driven by taking risks and testing new ideas who are testing new soil health management practices with great success – most farmers (and the general population) are more risk averse, waiting for new ideas to be thoroughly tested before trying them out. There is a great need for tools and assistance to help these “middle adopters” adopt new practices.

The members of the Illinois Sustainable Ag Partnership have come together to build on the momentum that has been built around soil health, cover crops, water quality, nutrient management, and conservation issues. As a coordinated and consistent group, they focus on messaging, outreach, training and education for farmers and their trusted advisors as well as creating a network of on-farm demonstration sites to bring together and disseminate new information and lessons learned in plain, practical language specifically designed to reach the middle adopters.

The Vermilion Headwaters Watershed Partnership

In 2013, University of Illinois scientists identified the Vermilion-Illinois River Basin as one of the top five Illinois watersheds contributing the most to nitrogen runoff. The Vermilion River Headwaters is a 254,322-acre rural watershed encompassing portions of Livingston, Ford, Iroquois, and McLean counties. Approximately 93 percent of the watershed’s land base is in agriculture. AFT leads a coalition of farmers, government and non-profit agencies, and ag professionals working to reduce nitrogen loss from the watershed.

Duties & Responsibilities

  • Coordinating programs for a diversity of stakeholders across multiple formats, such as webinars, networking events, educational workshops and field days;
  • Organizing internal meetings and communications to ensure timely completion of program activities;
  • Managing event logistics and registrations;
  • Providing communications staff with content for social media campaigns, regular email updates, and other digital communications;
  • Supporting the development of narratives describing farmers who have successfully transitioned to conservation cropping systems and others engaged in AFT programs;
  • Coordinating quarterly Steering Committee and bi-annual Partner Committee meetings
  • Working with partners and watershed steering committee members to track outreach and education events, progress toward mutual goals, and ensuring consistent messaging;
  • At the direction of the Midwest Deputy Director and VH watershed coordinator, working directly with farmers and farmland owners to implement watershed programming;
  • Overseeing contracts and memorandums of understanding between partner organizations;
  • Responding to email and phone inquiries from farmers, landowners and the public;
  • Representing AFT at public meetings, field days and educational events
  • Complete other duties as assigned.

Requirements

The Midwest Program Assistant must be outgoing and energetic, organized, and capable of working independently and as part of a team.  S/he must be entrepreneurial, a capable problem solver and highly motivated with strong interpersonal skills. Excellent communication skills (phone, public presentation, writing, partner relations) and creativity are essential. Experience working with a diversity agricultural and conservation professionals, e.g. state and federal agencies, soil and water conservation districts, commodity organizations and conservation organizations is preferred.  Experience working with farmers and farmland owners, either professionally or personally, is a plus.  Additional qualifications include:

  • A BA or BS degree and a minimum of 2 years of related work experience in agriculture, environmental management, natural resource planning or related fields. An advanced degree in one or more of the disciplines noted may substitute for two years of work experience.
  • Demonstrated ability to prioritize multiple tasks, stay organized and follow through with limited supervision.
  • Ability to manage expectations across diverse groups and take instruction from multiple perspectives and sources.
  • Experience with public outreach and community engagement
  • Familiarity with managing data and information in Microsoft Excel and other aspects of the Microsoft Office Suite
  • Willingness to undertake limited work travel.

Compensation

American Farmland Trust pays salaries that are competitive with nonprofits of our budget size, and offers meaningful vacation, medical, retirement and other benefits. Salary range is from $40,000 to $45,000. Salary is negotiable based upon experience.

If you are eager to join our team, please visit this page to apply.

Please submit cover letter with resume to be considered.

American Farmland Trust provides equal employment opportunities (EEO) to all employees and applicants for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability or genetics. In addition to federal law requirements, American Farmland Trust complies with applicable state and local laws governing nondiscrimination in employment in every location in which the organization has facilities. This policy applies to all terms and conditions of employment, including recruiting, hiring, placement, promotion, termination, layoff, recall, transfer, leaves of absence, compensation and training.