Following Roots to Help Farmers: Sarah Blount’s Journey into Ag
The first memory I can recall as a child was feeding lambs on my family’s farm in Losantville, Indiana. I can’t quite recall how many lambs there were because I could barely count on my fingers.
I wasn’t involved in day-to-day operations on the farm as I got older. I like to call myself a “homework” kid. It wasn’t until I moved off the farm and attended college that I realized how much I missed it. I would come back home on holidays to visit and take long moments to breathe in the fresh air, or I would have long discussions with my father on how harvest season was going. I realized shortly thereafter that I wanted to get back to my roots.
Through my college education studying geography and a few internships over the summer working directly with ag retailers and the local Soil and Water Conservation District, I found my way to working with AFT as a conservation technician.
My motto after college was: working on the ground, with farmers, to help them help the land.
Currently, I am working with farmers and ag retailers in the Illinois Upper Macoupin Creek Watershed. My main focus is working with the Midwest team to bring the Champaign County S.T.A.R. program to Macoupin County, Illinois. This program is a free tool to assist farm operators and landowners in evaluating their nutrient and soil loss management practices on individual fields. Overall, this program will help meet the goals of the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy and address AFT’s mission to promote sound farming practices.
The first step in this program is for me to send out introduction letters to farmers in Macoupin County about what AFT is, our partners, and how we are there to help them.
There has been a lot of intentional thinking involved in the introduction letter. We want to make sure farmers connect with it and are inspired to pursue further contact with myself and AFT.
During this process, I recognized the difference between using the terms ‘phosphorus’ and ‘erosion.’ Farmers did not immediately associate “four pounds of phosphorus” being lost per acre as being significantly important to them.
What mattered most to the farmers was the erosion. Farmers could relate more to soil loss and the importance of it being washed away during extreme weather events. Learning from this example of terminology use is helping AFT’s perspective on connecting with farmers and providing technical assistance to improve soil health in the Midwest.
As introductions are being distributed, I am gathering information on what farmers are doing in their fields currently. After these steps I will be following the STAR program form to help them improve practices.
I am looking forward to continuing gathering information and baseline data, and I can’t wait to share more of my revelations. Most importantly, I am looking forward to following my motto— working on the ground, with farmers, to help them help the land.