Frank Rademacher of The Nature Conservancy, who farms with his father in Champaign County, presents during Soil Health Week’s The Art and Science of Soil Health Advocacy in Action Day Thursday March 7, 2024 at the Illinois State Capitol: 


We did not expect to go back to the farm. We kind of had an unconventional path back, which is great for us because it really gave us a blank slate to choose our practices and how we wanted to implement them. And so when we took over, really the farm looked like every other East Central Illinois farm that you see.

And really for us, that initial decision, it was really to go in the soil health direction was really based on bringing me back to the farm. And so our conversations there were … “this makes financial sense, right? … it’s less tractors, less passes.” It just made sense.

And actually that conversation was started, I always like to kick it off to actually our local Soil & Water Conservation District. They held a meeting that really captured our interest in that. And so while we initially started with what I would call a financial decision to pursue soil health, And ultimately, it evolved into one that we really fell in love with and just saw all the benefits of.

So, you know, year one, yeah, it’s less passes but year 2, 3, 4 and, and onward, you love that, you see more bugs in the field, you love that, you see water infiltrate and when it doesn’t, it’s coming off clearer. And so those things are really important to see as a farmer.

And so as part of that, we feel that STAR is incredibly important … for us to understand our soil health impact and also show off a little bit. To be honest, it’s nice to have those signs out there and show people what you’re doing and how it ranks up.

And so when I see STAR signs, when I see our own, I encourage people to think about that in a couple of different ways. There’s a lot of lessons from that …

So, conservation while it was an easy choice for us to make, it’s a hard choice to implement, and it is a choice every single year. So when you see a farmer that’s involved in that, that is a year to year decision that they are continuing to make.

And then secondly, STAR, also like Todd said, is based on the Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy and the science to keep nutrients out of the Gulf. And while that’s great, I also like to point back that that also applies to local water. And so, I work on a lot of local water projects in my position with The Nature Conservancy. And it’s incredibly important that we remember those local water qualities’ impacts as well. And so that’s what those local farmers are investing in.

So for all of us that work in conservation and farm, I appreciate your support in the conservation. Thank you.

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