Farm Credit 100 Fresh Perspectives
Farm Credit 100 Fresh Perspectives

Scott and Sandra Williams
Farmers and Managers, Fields Restored

Category
Location
Park Ridge, Illinois
Farm Credit Affiliation
1st Farm Credit Services
Scott and Sandra's Perspective

Scott and Sandra Williams have had conservation at the forefront of their minds from the day they bought their first farm, having learned from their father that care for the land is a central tenant of farming.

“A strong family tradition of conservation and responsible land management inspired our father to establish a dairy operation with the intention of gradually improving soil condition and fertility on an existing, but neglected, farm,” says Scott. “This long range and successful commitment was passed on to our generation and our current work is our attempt to continue the tradition, combining traditional and sustainable land management techniques to explore agricultural practices with positive environmental implications for the future.”

Scott and Sandra have explored and implemented a variety of innovative conservation practices. Most recently they began a new conservation venture called Fields Restored that aims to stabilize 17 acres of highly erodible land while simultaneously turning it into a diverse, perennial, specialty-crop venture. They’ve planted more than 30 species of perennials, including chestnuts, hickories, apples and raspberries. Wanting to ensure that their operation remains grounded in feasible, compatible practices with existing crops, they’ve kept the alleys between rows of perennials planted with alfalfa hay. Beyond the conservation goals, their diverse specialty-crop operation will also serve as a demonstration and education center for conservation innovation.

Scott and Sandra have partnered with many other farmers and organizations interested in similar innovative practices. Partnering with University of Illinois researchers, a portion of their new project contains a variety trial of 19 varieties of serviceberries, a native shrub that produces an extremely tasty and nutritious fruit. With the Savanna Institute, a regional nonprofit that works with farmers on conservation using edible perennial crops, Scott and Sandra collect and submit monthly data on the survival, growth, economics and health of their plants.

“We hope that the lessons we learn through this initiative will result in production technologies for the future that will identify underdeveloped new food sources, maximize ecological diversity while minimizing environmental stresses, and minimize resource application,” says Scott. “Future generations will be able to continue building upon the information we discover and the techniques being developed here.”

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