Midwest Conservation Technician

Website American Farmland Trust

Saving the Land that Sustains Us

Description

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. 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 helped thousands of farm families make a go of it (primarily through programs that increase farm viability and/or enhance farmland access). Long a pioneering leader, AFT is now riding a new wave of growth, driven by agriculture’s most pressing needs and opportunities.

Upper Macoupin Creek Watershed Partnership (UMC)

Water quality in Illinois lakes, rivers and streams is threatened by many sources—from manufacturing and urban pollution to nutrient and sediment runoff from farms. This puts water quality at risk not only in our state but also in watersheds further downstream.

To protect water quality, Illinois released a “Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy.” The strategy outlines a voluntary approach for farmers and other nutrient sources in priority watersheds to adopt a suite of best management practices. For farmers, this includes nutrient management, cover crops, crop rotation and erosion control measures such as no-till and strip-till—the components of a “Conservation Cropping System.”

In 2014, University of Illinois scientists identified the larger Macoupin River basin as one of the top three watersheds in Illinois yielding the most phosphorous (lbs./ac/year) from non-point sources. The Upper Macoupin watershed encompasses just over 135,000 acres of land draining into the Macoupin River, located in southern Macoupin County. Approximately 61 percent of the watershed’s land base is in agriculture. American Farmland Trust (AFT) leads a coalition of state and local partners working to reduce phosphorous and sediment losses in the watershed.

Duties and Responsibilities

The Conservation Technician position offers an exciting opportunity to help the Upper Macoupin Creek Watershed Partnership reach its goals. This position is being funded through a three-year grant received from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), though AFT is able to offer extended employment for “commendable and outstanding” work. The selected professional will work with the Midwest Deputy Director and the Midwest AFT Team to engage farmers in adopting sound farming practices capable of protecting environmental quality and responding to the growing impacts of climate change. The Conservation Technician will build and maintain relationships with farmers and non-operating farmland owners as well as state and federal agencies, agricultural service providers, conservation leaders, and others to develop and implement strategies to facilitate adoption of conservation practices on farmland. Specific activities will include direct outreach to the farmers and landowners of rented farmland.  The Conservation Technician will develop innovative educational programs, work with farmers and landowners directly to assess land for potential conservation activities, and foster partnerships and collaborations.

Targeted Outreach and Technical Support (75%)

Targeted technical support and outreach responsibilities will constitute approximately 75% of the Conservation Technician’s time. This position will conduct one-on-one outreach to project area landowners educating them on specific conservation practices guided by model output.

Specific duties include but are not limited to:

  • Contacting local landowners via phone calls, farm visits, emails, and postcards to alert them to the opportunity for free conservation planning consultations.
  • Engaging in one-on-one outreach and assistance to a minimum of 35 farmers a year, resulting in a minimum of 30 signed conservation activity plans.
  • Hosting three watershed events highlighting SWAMM model results (two in the first project year and one in the second year).
  • Organizing three watershed events (one each project year) summarizing key practices and lessons learned from project participants.
  • Identifying key implementation areas to achieve project nutrient reduction goals.

Other outreach opportunities include coordination of educational workshops that bring in agriculture retailers and area scientists to educate both NRCS and private landowners about economic, soil health, and wildlife response to implemented practices.

Evaluation and Assessment (25%)

Evaluation and assessment responsibilities will constitute approximately 25% of the Conservation Technician’s time.

This position will serve as a liaison between project partners, landowners and the AFT project Team. Primary evaluation and assessment duties include data collection, quality assurance checks and report formatting.

Specific duties include but are not limited to:

  • Evaluating activities related to stated water quality, soil health, and watershed awareness goals and ensuring adherence to Measurement and Evaluation Plan (MEP) guidance.
  • Coordinating water quality data collection efforts and serving as a liaison for project partners including USGS, AFT, EPA, and Blackburn College.
  • Working closely with individual landowners to evaluate the economic impact of prioritized soil health practices by quantifying two economic outcome indicators –yield and profitability –related to implementation of conservation practices.
  • Other outreach opportunities include coordination of educational workshops that bring in agriculture retailers and area scientists to educate both NRCS and private landowners about economic, soil health and wildlife response to implemented practices.
  • Engage farmers, landowners, and other stakeholders in identifying barriers to conservation adoption and develop common sense, economically viable solutions to overcome such barriers.
  • Represent AFT at public meetings, field days, and educational events.

The Conservation Technician will be based in Carlinville, Illinois. Annual evaluations will be based on achievement of specific performance benchmarks.

Requirements

The Conservation Technician must be entrepreneurial and a capable problem solver. S/he must be highly motivated with strong interpersonal skills. Excellent communication skills (phone, public presentation, writing, partner relations) and creativity are essential. Direct professional experience working with farmers, farmland owners – including women landowners, state and federal agencies, soil and water conservation districts, conservation organizations and others – is strongly preferred.  Previous on-farm experience or related agricultural sectors is also preferred. Previous experience or willingness to learn agricultural conservation planning and implementation issues and techniques is required.

  • A BA or BS degree and a minimum of 2 years of related work experience in agriculture, environmental management, or natural resource planning. An advanced degree in one or more of the disciplines noted may substitute for two years of work experience.
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills.
  • Ability to foster effective partnerships with Extension Educators, Soil and Water Conservation Districts, USDA and state agency personnel, farmers, landowners – including women landowners, and others is highly valuable.
  • Experience with public outreach, community engagement, and communications are preferred.
  • Familiarity with the Microsoft Office Suite is required – additional experience with ArcGIS is preferred.
  • Travel will be required from the Carlinville office to areas within the project area. Annual mileage is estimated at 6,000 miles. Additional travel within the state may be required. Mileage and related expenses are reimbursable.

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 $32,000 to $37,000.  Salary is negotiable based upon experience. This job is a result of the NFWF grant and the grant will be the sole compensation for this position.

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.  

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