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 7 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, 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.
American Farmland Trust's Farms Under Threat research reveals that farmland in New Jersey is severely threatened by urban and high-density development as well as by residential spawl into rural areas. New Jersey has also adopted one of the most ambitious Renewable Portfolio Standards in the nation, requiring 50% of electricity from renewable sources by 2030. New Jersey supports a renowned farmland protection program and is now developing a nation-leading statutory program to encourage solar energy projects that meet qualifications for agricultural dual-use (“agrivoltaics”). AFT defines agrivoltaics as solar energy generation systems designed to support and enable agricultural production, including crops, livestock and forage through the life of the project. US and global research indicates potential for diverse applications of agrivoltaics to enable deployment of agriculturally compatible solar while protecting farmland and generating financial benefits for farmers.
The Garden State sits at the national forefront in efforts to accelerate climate and grid decarbonization solutions while minimizing conversion of highly threatened agricultural land and supporting the viability of small and mid-sized farms across the state. Without stronger farmland protection and integrated approaches to energy development and land use planning, New Jersey will see 20% of its remaining farmland converted by 2040—in many cases, these are the diversified farms that provide fresh produce, dairy, and meat directly to local markets.
In partnership with Rutgers University, AFT is building capacity to advance Smart Solar by engaging farmers and experts, advancing best practices in agrivoltaics, and protecting the farms that are foundational to New Jersey’s diversified agricultural economy and heritage.
AFT’s mission – to save the land that sustains us by protecting farmland, helping to implement environmentally sound practices and keeping farmers on the land – has never been more urgent or relevant. With real estate and energy infrastructure development increasing pressures on New Jersey’s most productive, versatile, and resilient farmland, there is an acute need for agriculturally compatible solar energy projects, as well as farmer engagement and peer-based learning to facilitate such projects. The Specialist will work with AFT and Rutgers University partners to recruit, train, and advise farmers, agricultural landowners, and agricultural service providers interested in agrivoltaics and help them to achieve their business, personal, and family goals in agriculture. Working alongside researchers and extension professionals, the Specialist will help AFT and partners position New Jersey as a national leader in Smart Solar by developing curricula and farmer training platforms and disseminating novel technical resources for agrivoltaic systems for diversified agriculture, incorporating AFT’s Smart Solar principles and strategies.
The Specialist will advance AFT Smart Solar and Farm Viability initiatives and serve in a leadership role to develop a new Technical Assistance Program for Agrivoltaics Systems (TAPAS) in collaboration with Rutgers and the US Department of Energy (DOE). The TAPAS program will be a key aspect of the Collaborative for Agrivoltaics-Related Research, Outreach and Technology (CARROT), a partnership led by the Rutgers Agrivoltaics Program with funding from DOE.
The Specialist will play a leadership role in developing, coordinating and delivering the DOE-funded agrivoltaics training program for farmers, agricultural landowners, and agricultural service providers, working closely with advisors, researchers and expert collaborators. The Specialist will develop a technical assistance program that will provide tailored forums for peer-to-peer learning and exchange about agrivoltaics for farmers in New Jersey and regionally. Building on an already established network from a previous AFT project “Farmland for a New Generation” in New Jersey, the Specialist will engage a diverse cohort of farm owner-operators, tenant farmers, historically underserved farmers, and agricultural service providers interested in agrivoltaics. The Specialist will be responsible for design and delivery of programming via workshops, on-the-ground trainings at Rutgers sites, and advising for farmers interested in designing farm-specific agrivoltaics plans.
In addition to a core target audience of working farmers, the Specialist will also seek engagement and participation from other parties crucial to the advancement of agrivoltaics, including landowners, solar developers, crop advisors, and local elected officials. In forming an advisory committee and recruiting farmers and others to participate in trainings and workshops, the Specialist will ensure representation from underserved communities. Alongside participating farmers, the Specialist will develop materials on agrivoltaics for incorporation into farm management. The key outcome will be a model program for training a new class of farmer-specialists equipped to plan and manage farm operations with megawatt scale agrivoltaic systems. Led by Rutgers University, the Specialist will support a regional network of collaborating land grant university and extension partners focused around agrivoltaics education.
It is envisioned that the Specialist will grow to be a voice and trusted resource in New Jersey for strategies to integrate solar energy development with agricultural land protection, regenerative farming practices, farm viability, land access, and other aspects of AFT’s programs. Building on AFT’s Smart Solar leadership in other regions of the country, this is an exciting opportunity to shape and develop the foundation for AFT’s Smart Solar work in New Jersey as the New York/New Jersey and Mid-Atlantic regional programs expand capacity. As this program develops, may have opportunity to also work to advance NY solar work.
The Specialist will report to the New York/New Jersey Regional Director and will be a part of the NY/NJ regional team. They will work closely with the National Smart Solar Director. This is a full-time hybrid position based in New Jersey, ideally in proximity to one of the Rutgers University Agricultural Experiment Station campus areas (Rutgers Agricultural Research & Extension Center/Bridgeton, Snyder Research & Extension Farm Pittstown, Cook Campus Farm/New Brunswick). The Specialist will have the ability to work remotely when not utilizing workspace provided at Rutgers locations as necessitated by job responsibilities.
Duties and responsibilities
- Work in partnership with the NY/NJ Regional Director, National Smart Solar Director, partners and advisors to develop and coordinate delivery of a new curriculum on agrivoltaics for farmers (TAPAS/Technical Assistance Program for Agrivoltaic Systems).
- Cultivate significant relationships with agricultural industry leaders, solar, renewable energy and trade associations, and others in AFT’s growing Smart Solar network with a focus on increasing awareness of farmland conservation issues and building regional partnerships for research, policy, and AFT programs.
- Collaborate with organizations, solar companies, public agencies, researchers, and others to support implementation of NJ’s dual use pilot program. Elevate demonstration sites that show and explain the potential for agrivoltaics.
- Conduct or coordinate stakeholder interviews, group meetings, farmer/landowner surveys and other events or activities to understand concerns, goals, needed information and other factors around solar energy, specifically agrivoltaics.
- Develop written informational materials, including factsheets and briefings, identifying areas of opportunity for promoting agricultural land management and conservation benefits where solar energy is being developed.
- Promote soil health, best management practices and conservation practices as part of solar energy development, especially agrivoltaic projects with viable integration of agricultural production and solar energy generation.
- Communicate with stakeholders, funders, government organizations, the media, and the public about AFT’s regional work at the intersection of solar energy and agriculture.
- Share technical assistance and training materials, relevant research, case studies, and other resources with AFT partners and agencies, producers, landowners, energy, and environmental stakeholders and others regarding strategies to facilitate solar energy development while protecting agricultural land and sustaining agricultural viability.
- Collaborate with extension partners to communicate with agronomic and farm specialists, technical assistance providers, and farmers about resources and funding opportunities for on-farm solar energy production primarily for on-farm use.
- Help support a regional network of extension partners interested in agrivoltaics research and demonstration.
- Must be outgoing, energetic, detail-oriented, and passionate about agrivoltaics and advancing solutions to climate change, farmland conservation, farm viability, and renewable energy development.
- Experience in curriculum development, technical assistance, trainings or other demonstrated experience in educational planning and implementation.
- Experience with agricultural systems, regenerative farming and grazing practices, and farm viability issues in New Jersey.
- Familiarity with the state and regional policy landscape for climate, energy development, land use planning, and farmland protection in New Jersey.
- Existing relationships with solar development community, agricultural sector, and/or land conservation community, and other relevant networks strongly preferred.
- Experience and comfort interacting with diverse stakeholders on challenging topics, including farmers, agricultural landowners, solar developers, agency staff, extension educators, elected officials, and funders.
- Passion for collaboration in applied research and practical solutions to tackle complex issues that include climate change, farmland protection, and solar energy development.
- A general understanding of the solar energy development process is preferred.
- Track record of translating ideas into action and action into impact by developing and implementing effective strategies, projects, and programs.
- Excellent interpersonal, written, and verbal communication skills with demonstrated public speaking, media engagement and presentation skills.
- Ability to thrive and deliver high quality outcomes in a dynamic, growing organization often under time pressure.
- Lived experience with and/or demonstrated commitment to advancing Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice.
Education & Experience
5-7 years combined related education and work experience in curriculum development, technical assistance, energy development (preferably solar), agriculture, farmer support services, and/or program management.
Minimum BA or BS degree in a relevant field. An advanced degree in one or more of the disciplines noted may substitute for two years of work experience.
This job operates in a teleworking environment. This role routinely uses standard office equipment such as computers, and phones. Occasional work in the evenings or on weekends may be required to meet deadlines.
Travel throughout New Jersey is expected as the programming and services are developed. During periods when training events are being organized and delivered, the Specialist will be expected to travel frequently to Rutgers sites. Dedicated workspace will be provided for use by the Specialist at a Rutgers research farm. Additional travel is also possible to attend national conferences, forums, and meetings as part of the NY/NJ Regional team as well as in furtherance of national Smart Solar goals and objectives. Must be based in New Jersey.
Why you should apply
- Lead a nationally significant project in a dynamic, emerging field of agrivoltaics
- Be part of a purpose-driven, committed, knowledgeable, high-performing, experienced and supportive 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. Applications received by October 31, 2023 will be given priority consideration.