INDIANAPOLIS — Jane Hardisty has been with the Indiana
Natural Resources Conservation Service for almost 40 years.
Having grown up on a farm in Hancock County, and knowing she
wanted to stay close to the land, conservation has been very near and dear to
Hardisty’s experience in the industry is extensive. She was
the first female conservationist in Indiana and had held the position of state
conservationist for 14 years.
She continues to provide technical assistance in
conservation at both the state and national level.
Q: What does your job entail?
A: I am responsible to carry out the agency’s mission in
Indiana. I go out in the field and have farmers take me around their property. I
need to be in the field to see what’s going on. I also travel back and forth
between Washington, D.C., and Indiana. Every day is different.
Employees with the agency work in every county in Indiana to
provide technical assistance, conservation planning and program information to
land users. A leadership team keeps me informed about what is going on in the
counties, and then I am able to discuss statewide issues. They are good people
who make my job easy.
Q: What are the agency’s main
areas of focus?
A: The main areas of focus are water quality, erosion,
invasive species and soil quality. Emphasizing focus helps us know what to
Q: What is your favorite aspect
about your job?
A: Spending time in the counties with farmers and employees
and getting conservation on the ground. I really enjoy taking on a project and
finding ways to solve issues.
Q: What are some challenges?
A: There are so many requests from land owners, but there
are limited resources, staff and budget. One of the challenges of a federal
agency is to decide how to maintain public service.
Q: What do you do at the national
A: I have been on details to provide needed assistance for
policy development and procedure. Each detail varies in time, the last time I
was there for nine months, but each detail is usually 90 to 120 days.
Q: What do you like about being
able to help at a national level?
A: I always put the Indiana slant on things we are
discussing. I think Indiana is the best. Indiana is known as a national leader
and we take pride in that.
Q: What are some Indiana
A: We prioritize work and resources where concerns are in
Indiana. Runoff and soil health are big concerns in Indiana. We are limited to
what soils have the capacity to do. We talk with farmers about filter strips,
monitoring runoff and keeping cover of crops and then provide training if it is
wanted or needed. We have concentrated efforts that were able to bring in
additional money to spend more time on these issues. We’re trying to get farmers
to think conservation.
Q: Why is conservation important?
A: I love Indiana and want to make sure it’s being taken
care of. There are people to feed, and we need to stretch our resources and make
sure the best treasures we have — the soil and water — are being taken care of.
With fewer young people returning to the farm, and we also want to instill in
them the importance of conservation.
Q: Where did you grow up?
A: I am a farm girl. I grew up on a family farm in Hancock
County. Something about that stays with you. My parents instilled the importance
of farming and conservation in me. There is value of the land and how to treat
people; they taught me that.
Q: What is awareness like for
conservation in Indiana?
A: Awareness in Indiana is growing. Bringing the concept of
soil health back and showing all ages of farmers how they can make money from
adopting conservation practices is important. Farmers really are leading the
soil health kick from the grass roots up. Soil health is something Indiana is
known for nationally, and it has our farmers excited again. I am proud of this
Q: How did you become interested
A: I was raised on a farm and knew I wanted to stay with
farming. I went to Ball State University and was talking with an adviser who
said conservation was the next best thing to farming. I have stuck with the
agency because of the mission and what it does and wouldn’t have changed my
career for anything.
Q: What is something people might
not know about the agency?
A: Our job is 80 percent communication with people. As long
as I’m around, we have to keep that relationship and maintain communication with
people — it’s critical.
Q: What are some challenges you’ve
faced in 40 years at the agency?
A: I became the first female state conservationist and have
faced some challenges as a woman over the years. Being raised by two wonderful
people I knew how to treat people and how to react. Hopefully, women like me in
my position have made it easier for women in the industry. I hope that I’ve been
a role model for women in the industry.