Introducing Shelby Best – Midwest Program Manager
Growing up in a small town in Northern Illinois, I am used to being surrounded by corn and soybean fields. The hard-working ethics of agriculture was an important part of the identity of the town and those living in it, which made an impact on me from an early age. Like many others, I left my hometown to attend undergraduate and graduate school, working in various cities along the way to learn more about different cultures and practices. My passion for protecting open spaces and living sustainably remained with me throughout that time, and I found myself returning to the Northern Illinois region so I could give back and support my community.
Prior to joining AFT, I worked in both land protection and local government to promote various conservation and sustainability efforts. My work intersected with many stakeholders, from landowners and farmers to elected leaders and non-profits. I helped lead regional efforts to address sustainability and resiliency from a holistic, systems-based perspective. Another passion of mine is promoting local food systems in an equitable and just manner, along with finding new and innovative ways to combine agriculture, conservation, and local economies.
I’m excited to be in my new role as the AFT Midwest Program Manager. My role is to support programming efforts in the Midwest. That sounds broad – and it is! However, my current projects are based primarily in Illinois. One of the projects involves watershed planning in the Vermillion Headwaters Watershed to reduce nutrient run-off and support conservation cropping practices. Another project I will be leading is a partnership with Argonne National Laboratory to research the potential for using perennial crops on marginal land as a source for bioenergy.
To kick off this project, we are gathering Illinois farmer’s feedback about farm energy consumption. We’re eager to gather perspectives from all farmers across the state, and are especially looking to hear from women, minority, and socially vulnerable farmers in Illinois. If you’re a farmer or know a farmer in Illinois who would like to provide their input, please visit our farm energy consumption form here to take the brief survey (there’s also a chance to win a *cash prize* for your feedback).
When not at work, you can find me testing new veggies to grow in my garden, hiking at a local forest preserve to identify native plants, and supporting community sustainability efforts.