American Farmland Trust is the only national organization that takes a holistic approach to agriculture, focusing on the land itself, the agricultural practices used on that land, and the farmers and ranchers who do the work. Since our founding in 1980, AFT has helped permanently protect over 6.5 million acres of agricultural lands, advanced environmentally-sound farming practices on millions of additional acres, and helped thousands of farm families make a go of it (primarily through programs that increase farm viability and/or enhance farmland access). Long a pioneering leader, AFT is now riding a new wave of growth, driven by agriculture’s most pressing needs and opportunities.
We believe diversity drives innovation. We are inclusive. We embrace differences. We recognize and respect the fundamental value and dignity of all our employees. We celebrate the unique traditions, heritages, and experiences our employees bring to the workplace. We are committed to creating and sustaining an inclusive culture that promotes and values diversity, and where everyone feels empowered to bring their authentic selves to work every day.
We provide equal employment opportunities (EEO) to all employees and applicants for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, expression or identity, national origin, age, disability, or genetics. In addition to federal law requirements, American Farmland Trust complies with applicable state and local laws governing nondiscrimination in employment in every location in which we have facilities. This policy applies to all terms and conditions of employment, including recruiting, hiring, placement, promotion, termination, layoff, recall, transfer, leaves of absence, compensation, and training.
Evidence demonstrating the economic benefits of soil health management systems is currently limited and yet critically needed to drive scaled-up adoption. AFT is working to fill the gap with user-friendly soil health economic calculators for a diversity of production systems and practices.
Reporting to the Economic Tools Development Manager, the Senior Soil Health Scientist will provide leadership as a Soil Health Economics Researcher & Tools Developer to further research and develop, in collaboration with an interdisciplinary team across AFT’s economic tools. The research will expand the functionality of three existing economic tools (Retrospective Soil Health Economic Calculator (R-SHEC) Tool, Predictive or P-SHEC Tool, and Online-SHEC Tool) so the tools can be used for more production systems, in more states, and for more soil health practices and to ensure that the basis of the predictions of return on long-term investment in building soil health is scientifically and economically sound.
These tools serve as the basis for producing retrospective economic and environmental case studies of “soil health successful” producers and predictive assessments for “soil health curious” producers considering the value of adoption. Download the R-SHEC Tool Kit to learn about the methods and case studies here: https://farmland.org/project/quantifying-economic-and-environmental-benefits-of-soil-health/.
As an integral part of the AFT Program team, the Senior Soil Health Scientist will be key in completing deliverables focused on AFT’s Soil Health Economic Calculator (SHEC) Tools as well as shaping the future of how the tools work. This position will conduct literature research, acquire, and analyze datasets, and develop innovative new ways to integrate existing scientific knowledge, data, and/or models to improve the tools’ relevance and usability by producers and conservation professionals. This position will work across the interdisciplinary team to accelerate the development of the P-SHEC Tool’s Long-Term Benefits sheet in the currently Excel-based tool to improve the soil organic matter (SOM)-crop yield relationship calculations and explore other important causal relationships between soil health and economic indicators as the basis for the predictive functions of the P-SHEC Tool.
In addition, the person will lead research initiatives to investigate additional quantitative relationships between soil health practices, SOM, and other soil health indicators with water quality, water quantity, climate, and biodiversity indicators.
This position is one of five new hires AFT is making to establish a Soil Health Economics Accelerator Team comprised of two agricultural economists and a soil health scientist (tool developers) and two conservation agronomists (case study authors). These new hires will complement existing AFT staff expertise already working in this area.
What You’ll Be Working On
- Collaborate with the interdisciplinary team to continue the development of all three tools (R-SHEC, P-SHEC, and O-SHEC Tools), pending data availability, and team priorities to (1) expand to priority states, (2) expand beyond existing row crops (e.g., to Kernza, sorghum, vegetables, etc.), (3) expand nut crops beyond almonds and possibly to fruit orchards, (4) expand to perennial production systems, (5) expand soil health practices beyond no-till/reduced till, cover crops, nutrient management, conservation crop rotation, mulching, and compost application (e.g., biochar, agroforestry, silvopasture), and (6) develop a grazing version of the tools.
- Collaborate with the team of internal and external agricultural professionals to research and investigate the availability of existing datasets of agricultural economic and soil health indicators relating to soil health practices that AFT could obtain or assemble from multiple databases. In particular the team will leverage the recent USDA investment in Climate Smart Commodity Partnerships (both those funded for AFT, and potentially others through cross coordination) to plan for and facilitate the collection of shared data across multiple projects to strengthen the value of AFT’s publicly available tool suite.
- Expand the tool to explore the relationship between yield and other soil functions such as soil fertility/nutrient cycling and water storage capacity/water cycling, for use in the P-SHEC Tool. Collaborate with the team of agricultural economists on these research fronts. Publish research findings in appropriate academic journals.
- Incorporate feedback from users of the updated tools on options for adjusting them to better serve internal and external partner needs.
- Produce and use associated education and outreach materials, such as PowerPoints and webinars, for a wide array of audiences.
- Provide training to the internal and external partners on how to use updated and expanded tools to develop their own case studies and predictive assessments.
- Lead research into other existing Excel-based or online soil health, water quality, climate, or water quality outcomes estimation tools developed by others to potentially build impactful new collaborations on tool development.
- Support a strong team culture of shared learning, innovation, and problem solving among AFT staff.
The ideal candidate is self-motivated and possesses:
- Must have experience obtaining, assembling, and analyzing large scientific and/or economic datasets.
- Proficiency using statistical software (e.g., R or Stata, etc.).
- Knowledge about U.S. commodity crop production systems (e.g., corn, soybeans, wheat, hay, corn silage, almonds, and more) under both conventional and regenerative farming practices; ability to learn additional production systems, such as agroforestry and grazing, vegetables, fruit orchards, and perennial crops, is a plus.
- Knowledge about soil health practices (e.g., no-till, strip-till, cover crops, nutrient management, conservation crop rotation, mulching, compost and/or biochar application and more).
- Knowledge about soil health science and the relationships between soil health indicators and crop yield, nutrient and chemical input use, etc.
- Ability to communicate highly technical scientific data and analyses in an effective and meaningful way to audiences in the conservation professional community both verbally and in writing.
- Ability to juggle multiple research and tool development sub-projects at various stages of completion and various stages of internal and external review.
- Ability to work effectively in a multi-disciplinary, non-siloed, highly collaborative environment and across the organization and with partners in a remote-work environment.
- Flexibility and eagerness to learn new methods and analytical approaches as they may change over time.
- Experience using Outlook, Microsoft Office 365 Suite including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Teams.
The following qualifications are a plus:
- Experience developing Excel-based economic-environmental tools is a plus.
- Experience using COMET-Planner nationwide dataset is a plus, as is using Nutrient Tracking Tool (NTT) or COMET-Farm Tool.
- Experience collaborating with members of the academic and practitioner conservation community is a plus (i.e., ERS, ARS, NRCS, University Agricultural Economists, Extension, farm trade associations, corporations with sustainability goals, NGOs, ag retailers, etc.)
- Eagerness to understand individuals’ and organizations’ goals in order to forge mutually beneficial data-, model-, and tool-sharing relationships.
Education & Experience
- PhD degree in soil science, soil microbiology, agricultural ecology, ecology, etc., or if education is in a different scientific discipline, 4+ years’ work experience in some aspect of agriculture and or sustainability/environmental conservation is required.
- >4 years’ experience as a data analyst or practicing soil scientist is required.
Why you should apply
- Be a part of a purpose-driven, committed, knowledgeable, high-performing, experienced and fun team
- A diverse and inclusive work environment
- A cause and mission you can be proud of
- Competitive compensation & benefits
- Remote work opportunities
- Flexible scheduling
Ready to apply? If this job sounds like a fit for you, then click on the ‘apply’ button below. Please answer the screener questions and be sure to include a cover letter and resume to be considered.