Conservation Mentoring Program For Indiana Growers Expands

The Conservation Cropping Systems Initiative (CCSI) announces another key component of its three-year USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Conservation Innovation Grant.

The CCSI Mentoring Program is designed to put Indiana producers in touch with mentors and/or consultants for individual technical assistance to help implement conservation practices recognized as beneficial through CCSI.

Potential mentors are contacted by Indiana Conservation Partnership (ICP) staff and/or directed to contact their local Conservation Field Office or Purdue Cooperative Extension Office for applications.

Mentors (farmers and consultants) are nominated by staff from ICP organizations. Once applications are evaluated and assessments are made and approved, enrollment is completed through a local USDA Service Center.

“This is an excellent program for mentors and farmers,” says Holscher. “Mentors earn pay for their expertise and farmers choose the mentor they believe will best fit their farming operation. It’s a match for the farmer and mentor.”

Holscher says the farmer receives conservation tips, tricks and guidance from someone who “has been there, done that. They are learning from a mentor who has already made the mistakes so they don’t have to!”

“As the program progresses, we’re already seeing a strong relationship building on behalf of both the mentors and farmers,” says Hans Kok, CCSI coordinator. “The CCSI program provides an opportunity for both parties to learn from each other.”

“The tips I received from my mentor will greatly assist my crop operation by allowing me to sustain healthier soil for a better yield result in the end,” says Randy Ennis, a farmer from Pike County who is participating in the program. “I thoroughly enjoyed his visit and look forward to implementing the conservation plan that Mike recommended to me.”

Kim Wampler, plant manager with Ceres Crop Solutions, says this program is well worth it. “I participated in a mentoring meeting with a client that focused on the use of cover crops. As a spectator, I learned a lot that day on which cover crops would provide the most benefit for a given situation: soil tilth, fertilizer management, weed suppression, etc. From my own perspective as a plant manager, it was invaluable to learn best termination practices in cool spring conditions to insure a good kill.”

Kok says mentors also are able to expand their existing client base and receive compensation while doing so. “They can increase access and connections to local, state and federal conservation agency partners, and be recognized as a partner in a statewide program that’s gaining national recognition.”

For more information on the mentoring program, contact Holscher at the Indiana Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts office, Indianapolis, or at ccsi@iaswcd.org.

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