Addressing Nutrient Runoff from Leased Farmland in the Great Lakes

2016 - 2020
Team Leader
American Farmland Trust

A team led by American Farmland Trust will engage women non-operator farmland owners (WNOLs) and their tenant farmers in piloting creative lease arrangements that dramatically increase conservation practices on leased farmland. Previous work supported by the Fund estimated that over 48% of land farmed in the Great Lakes Basin is leased from owners who do not live on the land. An increasing proportion of that rental land is owned by women newly in a decision-making role after their husbands have died, but who are feeling poorly equipped and disempowered to be actively involved in the treatment of the land they own. Research shows that women owners take a long view of the land and place great value on leaving a legacy of health soils and healthy waters. Research also shows that women owners need gender-specific support, education, programs and tools to empower their conservation-based decision-making.

The pilot will increase awareness and understanding of conservation practices among WNOLs, stimulate actions that mutually benefit the landowner and tenant farmer while sharing the risks of those actions, and engage agricultural retailers in supporting those actions. The pilots will be conducted in the Portage and Toussaint River basins in northwest Ohio, and the Genesee River watershed in western New York. The three year project will directly reach 80 WNOLs and 160 tenant farmers and will scale across the basin by mobilizing a community of practice.

This pilot project is the result of a design grant that allowed the team time to identify and overcome obstacles to the use of sustainable agricultural leases, identify watersheds to pilot their strategies, and develop a complete work plan to test their approach.

Project Categories

  • Flow Regimes

Project Files

  • 1095 Project Results White Paper September 2016
  • Download Project Profile (PDF)