ELWOOD, Ind. — In the effort to promote solid conservation techniques among ag producers, incentive-based, voluntary measures continue to be a leading method.

A good example is the Red Gold Stewardship Award Program, a privately-funded campaign with the Indiana State Department of Agriculture as a partner.

The goal of the program is to highlight the practices already utilized by conservation-minded growers of tomatoes, as well as spurring others to embrace such practices as part of their own farm management.

Red Gold Director of Agriculture Steve Smith said his company’s commitment to conservation is reflected in the award program.

“The motivation is to foster the belief in practices of taking care of our most precious resource — the land,” he said. “The decision to start the program revolved around our desire to be good stewards of resources.”

The incentive is straightforward enough: First prize pays a $1,000 scholarship plus the equivalent price of an extra truck load of tomatoes per day during harvest season, and second prize pays $500 plus an extra half-load per day, with a second-chance drawing also providing an opportunity for growers to receive the price for an extra load per day.

ISDA’s role in the competition is to serve as an independent evaluator, including the conducting of judging and scoring. ISDA Division of Soil Conservation Director Jordan Seger said the evaluating system serves to be a comprehensive measure.

“The award program examines a whole farm and systems approach to conservation,” he said. “As a result, there is a strong emphasis on complete integration of stewardship of natural resources.”