Spotlight on Saving Tomorrow’s Agriculture Resources (STAR)

Organization Name: STAR | Saving Tomorrow’s Agriculture Resources

Location: Champaign, IL

Service Area: Illinois, Iowa, and Colorado

Mission: The STAR initiative will encourage farmers and landowners to adopt management practices and decisions that will reduce nutrient and soil losses on their fields, ultimately saving the agriculture resources that are unique to a local area. 

Organization Description: STAR provides a simple assessment tool for farmers and landowners to evaluate their current production system’s conservation practices at the field level, identify areas for improved management, document their progress, and share their successes. The STAR evaluation system assigns points for management activities on an annual basis, field by field. Scores are converted to a STAR Rating of 1 to 5 STARs, with 5 STARs indicating commitment to a suite of practices proven to improve soil health and water quality.

Program Highlights

Current Work

STAR began in Champaign County, Illinois, and has recently launched two affiliate state chapters, Iowa and Colorado. These new affiliate states are collaborating with Illinois to be a consistent messenger for soil health and water quality across geographic differences. STAR is looking towards expanding into other states and eventually creating a national alignment towards working lands conservation. The STAR web app for Illinois allows producers to easily select their fields, fill out the field form, quickly receive a STAR score, and get connected with technical assistance.

Who We Work With

First and foremost, STAR works with farmers and landowners of field crop farms. We also work with technical advisors and agricultural organizations.

The Problem

Illinois is one of the largest contributors of agricultural fertilizer runoff into the Mississippi River, and ultimately to the Gulf of Mexico, where the fertilizers produce a large hypoxic zone.

The Solution

The Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy was one of the biggest pushes for the development of STAR. STAR focuses on voluntary conservation to help reduce the load of fertilizers that enter our surface waterways. STAR provides a tool for farmers to evaluate how they are doing from a conservation perspective. It was created by farmers for farmers to help them see how the practices they use affect water quality and where they can make a difference by adjusting their practices.

Something Special

Right now, STAR doesn’t exist anywhere else. It is not a certification program. It is purely a simple-to-use tool to help a producer make decisions and evaluate what they are doing without third-party pressure and without feeling compelled through regulation. The STAR tool also focuses on field-level practices. Every operation is different from the next, but inside every operation every field is different; whether it is soil type, nearby streams and flooding issues, or leases and contractual agreements on certain fields. Analyzing conservation practices and outcomes at the field-level gives a farmer flexibility to make changes field to field.


Communicating with farmers about conservation is a shared challenge across the sector. It is a delicate and difficult task, but it is made easier by our voluntary approach to conservation.

Inspiration – What gets you excited about this work?

Stories from STAR farmers who are finding value in the tool are a huge inspiration. We are beginning to realize the impact that we can have on neighbors after they see a STAR field sign, go through the process with the field form, and see how simple and easy it is.

Key Takeaway

Let’s work together on it. STAR can be integrated into several other tools and programs; complement the program and give more value to that program, with field by field analysis and connection to local technical assistance. STAR field signs to show off rating and influence their neighbors.

Contact Information

Chandler Bruns, STAR Operations Manager

[email protected]

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