When establishing a wildlife refuge, it is often assumed that additional protection and stewardship will be provided by local farmers to aid in meeting natural resource goals. But to many farmers, that assumption is insulting and often frustrating. Farmers work hard to provide crops and livestock to feed our families, but their work doesn’t stop there. Farmers are working year-round to protect the land and environment around them. They’ve been here for generations and know this land better than anyone. Over the years, each family has worked tirelessly to make a living while being the best caretaker of the natural resources they’re given. You can’t buy that kind of local knowledge. Farmers implement best management practices (BMPs) for all sorts of natural resource concerns, including water quality and pollinator health, while they farm. It is a part of everything they do.

And farmers help protect and manage wildlife because animals and insects are a daily part of farm life. Many of the species that were here 100 years ago are here and thriving. Farmers know how to live with and work with wildlife and contribute to their protection in many ways. Farmers in this area also have a deep respect for the beauty of the nature around them. It’s the reason their ancestors settled here, and subsequent generations stayed. They love this land.

With a new refuge comes a takeover in title responsibility for conserving natural resources in the area. Farm families have been caring for this land for generations and want to continue implementing practices on private land that protect natural resources without government overreach.  To see more farmer stories, visit ilfarmersconserve.com.