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Addressing Nutrient Runoff from Leased Farmland in the Great Lakes

Year Awarded: 2016
Awarded: $1,087,000
Team Leader:  American Farmland Trust

This team, led by American Farmland Trust, developed a new and innovative model to reduce nutrient and soil runoff on leased farmland in the Great Lakes region. By engaging women landowners, their operators, and farm retailers, the team expanded the use of conservation practices to improve soil health and reduce runoff in the Great Lakes basin. Pilots for the model took place in the Portage and Toussaint River basins in northwestern Ohio and the Genesee River basin in western New York.

The team began the work after identifying a critical barrier to the implementation of conservation practices that safeguard water quality: farmers who lease the land they farm do not have as many incentives to use conservation practices as farmers who own the land they farm. In the Great Lakes region, up to 49 percent of the farmland is leased. A significant share of leased farmland is owned by women, a traditionally underserved sector in agriculture, and a sector that is expected to increase. Research shows that women take a longer view of the land and place great value on leaving a legacy of healthy soils and healthy waters.

By employing innovative communication strategies, including women-only learning circles, this team increased the understanding of conservation practices among non-operating landowners, particularly women. It developed a diverse toolbox for non-operating landowners, farmers who rent land, and the agricultural professionals who serve them, that is expanding the use of conservation practices across the Great Lakes.

In addition to American Farmland Trust, the team included the Ottawa Soil & Water Conservation District, Wood Soil & Water Conservation District, Cornell University Cooperative Extension, Utah State University, and the IPM Institute of North America.