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Women in Agriculture award winners share a commitment to conservation

A pioneering state conservation officer and a leading advocate for sustainable farming have been named winners of the 2017 Women in Agriculture awards presented by Purdue Extension.

The awards were presented Thursday (Aug. 17) as part of the lieutenant governor’s Celebration of Agriculture program during the Indiana State Fair.

Jane Hardisty of Indianapolis, state conservationist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, was named winner of the Leadership Award, presented annually to a woman for outstanding achievements in an agribusiness or policymaking position.

Carrie Vollmer-Sanders, nutrient strategy manager for The Nature Conservancy’s North America Agriculture Program and member of a northeast Indiana farm family, received the Achievement Award, honoring women who are directly involved in a home farming operation.

“The Purdue Extension Women in Agriculture team appreciates the opportunity to recognize the efforts of these women who serve as trailblazers, role models and leaders in the field of agriculture,” said Danica Kirkpatrick, marketing and engagement manager for the Purdue College of Agriculture and co-chair of the Women in Agriculture Awards Committee. “The pool of talent we have to choose from makes it more difficult every year to select just one winner in each category.”

Hardisty grew up on her family’s farm in Hancock County. She joined the USDA’s Soil Conservation Service (now known as the NRCS) in 1974 and is now the nation’s longest serving state conservationist. She was the first female soil conservationist in Indiana and has continued to promote career opportunities for women in agriculture. In the past year, she helped establish the Indiana Women For the Land program, a partnership of agricultural and natural resource conservation agencies and organizations working together to provide information, networking, education and resources to Indiana women landowners and farmers.

She has served as state conservationist for the NRCS for the past 17 years, leading hundreds of employees working directly with local and state partners to help property owners re-establish land cover to help improve water quality, prevent soil erosion and reduce loss of wildlife habitat.

Beginning in 2010, Hardisty was a leader of the soil health movement, demonstrating that natural resources can not only be sustained, but improved over time through effective management. She has accelerated Purdue Extension’s involvement in conservation and soil health, supporting research in cover crops, drainage water management and pollinators.

Vollmer-Sanders was named nutrient strategy manager for the Nature Conservancy’s North American Agriculture Program in 2016. Previously, she was the Conservancy’s director of the Western Lake Erie Basin Project. Under her leadership a broad base of stakeholders including working farmers, agribusinesses, researchers, corporations, government agencies, other non-profit agencies and conservation groups came together to form the 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program to ensure sustainable nutrient management practices are adopted by the agriculture industry for long-term water quality benefits in Lake Michigan.

In 2014, President Obama honored Vollmer-Sanders for her work to reduce nutrient runoff into Lake Erie.

Vollmer-Sanders and her husband, Ryan, farm with her parents in northeast Indiana and northwest Ohio. The Grains and Greens and Vollmer Farms operations raise corn, soybeans, wheat and sunflowers. The family uses precision nutrient management, conservation tillage, grassed waterways, filter strips and cover crops to improve productivity, soil and water quality.

Purdue Extension’s Women in Agriculture Program provides local, regional and statewide skill development programs, networking events that engage sponsors and stakeholders, and resources through multiple types of media.

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