Local recruitment: Midwest Conservation Technician (Vermilion Headwaters Watershed)

American Farmland Trust

Pontiac, IL, USA ūüáļūüáł


American Farmland Trust is the only national organization that takes a holistic approach to agriculture, focusing on the land itself, the agricultural practices used on that land, and the farmers and ranchers who do the work. Since our founding in 1980, AFT has helped permanently protect over 6.5 million acres of agricultural lands, advanced environmentally-sound farming practices on millions of additional acres, and helped thousands of farm families make a go of it (primarily through programs that increase farm viability and/or enhance farmland access). Long a pioneering leader, AFT is now riding a new wave of growth, driven by agriculture‚Äôs most pressing needs and opportunities. 

We believe diversity drives innovation. We are inclusive. We embrace differences. We recognize and respect the fundamental value and dignity of all our employees. We celebrate the unique traditions, heritages, and experiences our employees bring to the workplace. We are committed to creating and sustaining an inclusive culture that promotes and values diversity, and where everyone feels empowered to bring their authentic selves to work every day.

We provide equal employment opportunities (EEO) to all employees and applicants for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, expression or identity, national origin, age, disability, or genetics. In addition to federal law requirements, American Farmland Trust complies with applicable state and local laws governing nondiscrimination in employment in every location in which we have facilities. This policy applies to all terms and conditions of employment, including recruiting, hiring, placement, promotion, termination, layoff, recall, transfer, leaves of absence, compensation, and training.

Vermilion Headwaters Watershed (VHW)

Water quality in Illinois lakes, rivers and streams is threatened by many sources‚ÄĒfrom manufacturing and urban pollution to nutrient and sediment runoff from farms. This puts water quality at risk not only in our state but also in watersheds further downstream. 

To protect water quality, Illinois released a ‚ÄúNutrient Loss Reduction Strategy.‚ÄĚ The strategy outlines a voluntary approach for farmers and other nutrient sources in priority watersheds to adopt a suite of best management practices. For farmers, this includes nutrient management, cover crops, crop rotation and erosion control measures such as no-till and strip-till‚ÄĒthe components of a ‚ÄúConservation Cropping System.‚ÄĚ

The Conservation Technician position offers an exciting opportunity to increase adoption of conservation cropping systems to achieve water quality improvements. This position is being funded through a three-year grant received from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), though AFT can offer extended employment for ‚Äúcommendable and outstanding‚ÄĚ work.

Under the supervision of the Midwest Program Manager, the selected professional will work collaboratively with staff of the Livingston and Ford Soil and Water Conservation Districts and the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service to engage farmers in adopting sound farming practices that reduce nitrogen loss. Activities include direct outreach to farmers and landowners within the Vermilion Headwaters Watershed; developing conservation plans to address soil and water resource concerns; and assisting with application, contracting, and implementation of Farm Bill Programs. 

What You’ll Be Working On

  • Contact local landowners in the project area via phone calls, emails, and postcards and alert them to the opportunity for conservation planning consultations and financial assistance. 
  • Conduct one-on-one outreach and assistance to a minimum of 30 farmers each year, resulting in a minimum of 30 signed conservation activity plans over the 3-year project period. 
  • Assist farmers with application and implementation of Farm Bill contracts that provide financial assistance for priority conservation practices. Information on other funding programs will also be shared with farmers and landowners, and a fact sheet summarizing program funding opportunities will be developed.
  • Utilize practice data to quantify environmental benefits with an emphasis on nitrogen load reductions. 
  • Organize watershed field days and informational events, including 2 farmer-led education events per year and 1 field day / workshop per year for a total of 9 events. Each event will highlight key practices like cover crops and reduced tillage and summarize lessons learned from project participants who have adopted soil health and other conservation practices.
  • Engage additional watershed stakeholders such as local businesses providing services to farmers (i.e. ag retailers), farm groups like the Illinois Farm Bureau, municipal water facilities, and local government leaders from Livingston and Ford Counties, the City of Pontiac, etc. 
  • Utilize event survey and stakeholder feedback to assess changes in awareness and understanding of watershed issues and track actions taken to achieve watershed goals. 
  • Serve as a liaison between project partners, landowners and the AFT project Team, including representing AFT at public meetings, field days and educational events. 
  • Prepare regular reports documenting practice implementation and progress toward water quality goals.


The Conservation Technician must be entrepreneurial and a capable problem solver. They must be highly motivated with strong interpersonal skills and possess:

  • Excellent communication skills (phone, public presentation, writing, partner relations) and creativity are essential.
  • Direct professional experience working with farmers, farmland owners, state and federal agencies, soil and water conservation districts, conservation organizations and others is strongly preferred.
  • Previous on-farm experience or related agricultural sectors is also preferred. 
  • Previous experience or willingness to learn agricultural conservation planning and implementation issues and techniques is required.
  • Ability to obtain USDA Level 2 e-Authentication (https://www.eauth.usda.gov). 
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills.
  • Ability to foster effective partnerships with Extension Educators, Soil and Water Conservation Districts, USDA and state agency personnel, farmers, landowners, and others is highly valuable.
  • Experience with public outreach and community engagement. 
  • Familiarity with the Microsoft Office Suite is required ‚Äď additional experience with ArcGIS is preferred.
  • Demonstrated ability to prioritize multiple tasks, stay organized and follow through with limited supervision.

Education & Experience

  • A BA or BS degree and a minimum of 2 years of related work experience in agriculture, environmental management, or natural resource planning. An advanced degree in one or more of the disciplines noted may substitute for one year of work experience.


  • Travel will be required from the Pontiac office to areas within the project area. Additional travel within the state may be required. Annual mileage is estimated at 5,000 miles. Mileage and related expenses are reimbursable.


  • American Farmland Trust pays salaries that are competitive with nonprofits of our budget size, and offers meaningful vacation, medical, retirement and other benefits. Salary range is from $45,000 to $50,000. Salary is negotiable based upon experience. This job is a result of the NFWF grant and the grant will be the sole compensation for this position.

Why you should apply

  • Be a part of a purpose-driven, committed, knowledgeable, high-performing, experienced and fun team
  • A diverse and inclusive work environment
  • A cause and mission you can be proud of
  • Competitive compensation & Benefits
  • Remote work opportunities
  • Flexible scheduling

Ready to apply? If this job sounds like a fit for you, then click on the ‚Äėapply‚Äô button below. 

Salary Description

$45,000 – $50,000





IHE Delft MSc in Water and Sustainable Development