Washington, DC, June 3, 2013 — The U.S.'s leading farmland protection group, American Farmland Trust (AFT), announced the appointment of Andrew McElwaine, 52, a 30-year leader in the nonprofit conservation world, as its President effective July 8.
McElwaine will succeed current AFT President Jon Scholl, who earlier this year announced his intention to step down to teach agricultural policy at the University of Illinois.
"I’ve devoted my life to conserving working and natural lands,” said McElwaine, “especially acquiring and protecting farms and ranches. I am honored that AFT has asked me to turn my energies toward working with the farmers and ranchers who make their living on that land. It provides a good livelihood for those who work it, fresh food for communities, and a healthy environment."
AFT Board Chair Miranda Kaiser, whose grandmother Peggy Rockefeller helped found the nonprofit 30 years ago, said McElwaine was the unanimous choice of AFT's diverse board of directors, which includes small-scale organic farmers, large-scale mainstream crop and livestock operators, academicians and former agriculture secretaries from Pennsylvania and California.
"Our challenge to protect farmland and keep farmers thriving has never been more urgent. We expect Andrew will lead us to new successes," said Kaiser.
McElwaine has worked for more than three decades in conservation, land protection, agriculture and public policy. In Florida, he helped to acquire easements on farm and ranch land through donations to and purchases by the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. He supported a successful campaign for a state constitutional amendment to reduce property taxes on lands with agricultural easements, and sought solutions to Florida’s long-term water and growth-management problems.
In Pennsylvania, McElwaine co-chaired two successful statewide bond initiatives that generated over $1 billion in conservation financing, including substantial support for local and regional farmland protection. As a result, Pennsylvania became one of the nation’s leaders in farmland easement purchases. He also served as the lead contractor for the Susquehanna River nutrient-trading program, which rewards farmers for implementing best management practices.
Since 2005, he has been President and CEO of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida in Naples, Florida, where he successfully led coalitions at the local, state and federal level to restore the Everglades, improve water storage and management, and balance growth with land conservation. He also acquired easements on farm and ranch land and oversaw more than 25,000 acres of easements held by the organization. He led a successful capital campaign that raised over $38 million for construction, programming and endowment. During his tenure at the Conservancy, the organization’s net assets increased by over 400 percent.
Prior to that, he was President and CEO of The Pennsylvania Environmental Council, where he worked to conserve land and water resources in the state, including farmland. During his tenure, the organization trademarked its motto, “Conservation through Cooperation.”
Previous positions include Director of Environmental Programs at the Pittsburgh-based Heinz Endowments, staff member on President George H. W. Bush’s Commission on Environmental Quality and Senior Legislative Assistant to the late U.S. Senator John Heinz (R-PA).
McElwaine earned a B.A. in political science from Duke University, a master's degree in policy and history from Carnegie Mellon University and a master's degree in history from George Mason University.
"McElwaine is a proven leader with a strong track record in nonprofit management, team-building and collaboration with key stakeholders. He demonstrates a real-world understanding of the important issues facing today's farmers," said John Hardin, a sixth-generation Indiana farmer, AFT board member and nationally recognized leader in agriculture.