American Farmland Trust Hires Dr. Mitch Hunter as Research Director - American Farmland Trust

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American Farmland Trust Hires Dr. Mitch Hunter as Research Director

Dr. Hunter is a sustainable agriculture and climate resilience expert and the recipient of a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship

WASHINGTON, D.C. – American Farmland Trust, the organization behind the national movement No Farms No Food®, has hired Dr. Mitch Hunter as its new research director. Dr. Hunter is charged with continuing to build AFT’s scientifically rigorous collaborative research program, including its “Farms Under Threat” initiative, and to ensure that AFT’s programming is strategic, efficiently delivered, academically defensible and impactful.

“We’re addressing big challenges at AFT – 31 million acres of farmland lost to development from 1992-2012 – against the backdrop of a growing population, worsening climate impacts on farm operations, and an aging farming population. This work requires finding new solutions and opportunities to keep pace with AFT’s holistic mission of protecting farmland, promoting sound farming practices and keeping farmers on the land,” said Beth Sauerhaft, AFT vice president of programs.

She continues, “Mitch is part policy wonk, part academic and part hands-on agronomist, making him uniquely qualified to lead AFT’s growing research effort. He has already furthered AFT’s work when, as AFT’s federal policy manager, he helped successfully protect farmland conservation funding in the 2014 Farm Bill. Now, he is returning with new capacity in both on-the-ground aspects of sustainable agriculture practices, and high-level research skills.”

In his time away from AFT, Mitch was awarded a Doctorate in agronomy as a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow at Penn State University. His thesis focused on sustainable intensification and climate resilience, particularly using cover crops to improve soils and help crops survive drought. While at Penn State, he analyzed world food demand in light of the growing threat of climate change. In 2017, he authored a widely read article, “Agriculture in 2050: Recalibrating Targets for Sustainable Intensification” in the journal BioScience.

He joined the University of Minnesota in 2018 as a post-doctoral research fellow in the Department of Agronomy and Plant Genetics. He recently testified in the Minnesota Legislature to secure research funding for innovative crops that protect soil and water quality.

“I am excited to return to AFT after seven years doing research on sustainable and climate-resilient cropping systems. I look forward to collaborating both within AFT and with academics across the country to develop the intellectual resources necessary to achieve AFT’s holistic mission. Together, we will build a scientifically rigorous research program that can inform forward-thinking programs and policies for the land, the soil and the people.”

Mitch will be based in St. Paul, Minnesota, where he will be putting down roots in the form of backyard fruit trees and berry bushes. Mitch loves to cook and bake with food from his garden, canoe and fish in northern Minnesota, and help out on his parents’ grass-fed beef farm. He also enjoys reading, rock climbing, and playing volleyball and ultimate frisbee.


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. AFT launched the conservation agriculture movement and continues to raise public awareness through our No Farms, No Food message. Since our founding in 1980, AFT has helped permanently protect over 6.5 million acres of agricultural lands, advanced environmentally-sound farming practices on millions of additional acres and supported thousands of farm families.

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