Ag Day at the State Fair is more than just a day to wander the fairgrounds and marvel at the livestock, although no one can say it isn’t fun to watch the sheep getting sheared or stroll past a 2000 lb. bull. And it’s more than just a day to remind us of our historical ties to agriculture, helping us to imagine what our lives would be like in those nostalgically simpler times when milking cows before supper and hoeing weeds from the garden were common place. The real idea behind Ag day though is to pay homage to the very important role that agriculture plays in our lives right now, for both those of us who are directly involved in it (the farmers and soil scientists, beekeepers and butter cow artists), and those of us who benefit from their continual hard work to care for the land, strengthen our economy, and put food on our table.
Which is why Illinois Stewardship Alliance was honored to award three unique individuals this year at the Ag Day Awards Ceremony at the Illinois State Fair on Tuesday for their dedication to land conservation and their use of pioneering efforts to preserve soil, water, and wildlife for generations to come.
Resource Conservationist of the Year: Jonathon Manual of Champaign, IL.
The Resource Conservationist of the Year Award is given to a Resource Conservationist from a county Soil & Water District that has gone above expectations of their peers and promoted conservation in their county and state in a way that succeeded in establishing conservation practices on the ground. Jonathon Manual is one such individual. Jonathan has been instrumental in the coordination of several workshops in educating farmers on the practice of Cover Crops and has purchased a tractor and drill for use in establishing cover crops on farms in Champaign County. He has been developing a program in the use of Strip Tillage/Conservation tillage in Champaign County as well. He has also been helpful in the promotion of the Barnard Prairie Nature Preserve and the St. Joseph Wetlands. Jonathan serves on a multitude of boards including the State Conservation Cropping Committee where he plays a vital role in the success of the regional seminars.
District Conservationist of the Year: Crystal Nance of Jerseyville, IL.
Crystal Nance is the District Conservationist in Jersey & Calhoun Counties. This years accomplishments include working with farmers on 29 EQUIP applications, 17 watershed treatments, and 10 in forestry. She has 5 new active CSP applications and 30 existing cover crop applications for over 3000 acres. This year Crystal has been working with the Jersey County SWCD board in addressing issues in the Otter Creek Watershed, with the potential to promote further funding for landowners within the watershed. She is a presenter on Agroforestry at county workshops and at High school Ag classes. She also has several on-going projects with Great Rivers Land Trust in Alton.
Conservation Cropping Farmer of the Year: Andy Shireman of Jacksonville, IL.
Andy Shireman is a father and farmer of 3,000 acres in Morgan, Scott, and Brown counties. He plants cover crops over his entire farm and is a huge advocate for using cover crops and strip till in protecting and managing his and his land owners’ farm ground. Andy has also taken on the role of Cover Crop Trainer giving presentations in many different counties in central Illinois. Andy explains to farmers and service providers how he has managed cover crops on his farming operation and how to succeed in using them. He has been a great innovator in conservation cropping.