Press release (copy and send to your local media)

The Association of Illinois Soil & Water Conservation Districts (AISWCD) will host The Art and Science of Soil Health Advocacy in Action Day, featuring the Saving Tomorrow’s Agriculture Resources (STAR) initiative, in the Capitol Rotunda March 7. The day will feature presentations from STAR producers, educators, conservation planners, and state and elected officials to celebrate the value of conservation and local Soil & Water Conservation Districts’ efforts for advocating for healthier soil, which makes waterways cleaner.

Thursday’s Advocacy in Action Day will feature speakers from noon-1 pm. Tom Beyers, farmer and AISWCD board president, will outline a call to action, and Becky Taylor of Ford County and Sarah Earles of Livingston County will speak on behalf of Soil & Water Conservation District (SWCD) employees. Julie Hewett, executive director of the Illinois Nutrient Research and Education Council, will talk about nutrient management.

Also invited are Illinois Department of Agriculture Director Jerry Costello and elected officials including Rep. Jason Bunting, who sponsored legislation to create new signs for SWCDs; Sen. Ram Villivalam, who sponsored SB1701; and Rep. Charlie Meier, who sponsored Soil Health Week.

Several farmers will promote conservation, including STAR co-founder Steve Stierwalt, STAR National Board Member Jeff O’Conner, Conservation Agronomist Frank Rademacher of The Nature Conservancy, and Dick Lyons who helped create Soil Health Week. Todd Gleason from the University of Illinois Extension will officiate.

There will also be 40 Conservation Planners in attendance from across the state. Their Capacity Building Initiative program was created through the IDOA and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. As part of the Agroecology + Innovation Matters initiative, these Conservation Planners work with farmers to enhance soil health, reduce nutrient loss, maintain clean waters, and bolster the advancement of best conservation practices. Morgan Cauble, a Conservation Planner based in Vandalia, will speak on behalf of the group. The initiative’s leader and AISWCD Executive Director Dr. Michael Woods will close by looking to the future of soil health initiatives in Illinois. 

Starting Monday the public can join in AISWCD’s Art and Science of Soil Health display in the Capitol Rotunda. Visitors will be invited to leave their brush strokes with soil-based paints on a large map of Illinois illustrating our diversity of agriculture, watersheds, and conservation, daily 8:30am-4pm through Friday, March 8.

Advocacy in Action Day details are on the AISWCD website. Full details on all Soil Health Week March 4-10 events around the state are on the Illinois Stewardship Alliance’s website.

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Dr. Michael Woods
Association of Illinois Soil and Water Conservation Districts
(217) 744-3414

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