By April Ingle
The St. Joseph River Watershed Initiative and local Soil and Water Conservation Districts are giving a much needed pat on the back to farmers who are working hard to protect our natural resources by sponsoring the River Friendly Farmer Program. The program is a way to recognize farmers in the St. Joseph River Watershed, and throughout Indiana, who are implementing land use practices on their farms that prevent soil erosion and polluted runoff in order to protect and enhance rivers, streams, and lakes.
The River Friendly Farmer Program publicizes and promotes farming practices in Indiana that benefit water quality while maintaining the profitability of farms. The program also informs the public about farmers’ positive contributions to clean up and provide continued maintenance of local water resources. There are three main steps in the program: 1) the public nominates River Friendly Farmers, 2) these farmers are then interviewed and selected based on outstanding use of conservation practices on their farm, and 3) the selected River Friendly Farmers are recognized through media, signs, banquets, and other means.
What do you consider the key to your success?
Involvement by all stakeholders, and voluntary incentive-based approaches to non-point source pollution concerns.
How would you outline the steps in organizing your project to advise another group on a similar project?
1. Develop an oversight committee that has varied representation
2. Determine the criteria for the program
3. Distribute information to entities who will select the River Friendly Farmers
4. Recognize the farmers selected. Lots of publicity
What have been the affects of this effort on your organization’s work?
1. Allows us to recognize those people who do an outstanding job of protecting natural resources.
2. Allows us to further promote the practices that these farmers use, and encourage implementation.
How has the project affected your community?
Allows the community to know that farmers are working to protect water quality, and increases public awareness of the problems of runoff and soil erosion.
What particular stumbling blocks, challenges, or defeats did you encounter?
Because this is a voluntary program, counties decide whether or not to participate. Not all counties are participating, but the number is growing each year.
How many people-hours were spent on the various aspects of the project?
The committee consists of 6 people, and 32 farmers were recognized in 2000. Approximately 160 hours were spent reading applications and selecting farmers, and 120 hours were spent on recognition and publicity of the program.
How was public involvement motivated and facilitated?
Through communications such as media, newsletters, signs – and because local committees actually select farmers.
How was public education a component of your program?
Education wasn’t just a component, it was the focus of the program. The program educated the public on: positive contributions farmers make to protect water quality, practices farmers use to protect water quality, and the support the Indiana Conservation Partnership and Farm Bureau provide.
What was the primary means of communication?
Communication was accomplished primarily through the media and River Friendly Farmer signs.
What resources were available/acquired/tapped into?
Initially the GLAHNF grant helped to get the program started, and then funding was gained from the Farm Bureau, Purdue, the Indiana DNR, and IASWCD.
What level of media exposure were you able to obtain and how did it affect your efforts?
In 2000, good local exposure and medium state-wide exposure was gained, and it had a positive effect on the project and community.
St. Joseph River Watershed Initiative
2010 Inwood Drive
Fort Wayne, IN 46815