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 her heart.

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 target.

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 level?

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 conservation issues?

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 health kick.

Q: How did you become interested in conservation?

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.