Rosalind Leeck is excited. The Indiana State Department of Agriculture employee was brought on board to perhaps help those in production agriculture who don't practice conservation tillage meld a bit better with those in conservation tillage. She found a grant which she believes can help make that happen overtime.
ISDA landed a Conservation Innovation Grant from USDA, amounting to $150,000 for each of the next three years. Since match is required, half of the match is in in-kind donations this first year. The other half was put up for the first year by the Indiana Corn Marketing Council and the Indiana Soybean Alliance.
The concept is to have groups of 10 to 20 producers in an area form together and test practices and share ideas, Leeck says. The idea is based off of the highly successful Iowa on-farm network which has been operating for roughly 10 years.
Typically, farmers adopt a common idea to test on their farms, and commit to doing some testing on a couple of fields. Technically, purists may call it a demonstration. But the idea, Leeck says, is for farmers to see what works on their farm, and then talk about what they see compare to what others in their area see doing virtually the same thing.
Purdue Extension, soil and water conservation districts and the Natural Resources Conservation Service are partnering on various aspects of this project. "The idea is for the work in each area to be locally led," Leeck says. "We want the farmers to be looking at and working on what they feel is important in their area."
Someone, either an Extension ag educator, an SWCD resource person or even a crops and soils consultant, will act as the facilitator for the group, and help make sure what they're doing will lead to helpful discussion at the end of the project.
"What we're trying to accomplish is more philosophy than anything else,:" the ISDA leader says. "We want farmers to work together, and make behavioral changes if they discover that it can help their operation."
Only in its first year, groups are still being assembled for this first season. Anyone who wants more information about the program can contact Leeck at ISDA by calling 317-503-9537, or emailing her at: [email protected].