American Farmland Trust Releases First-Ever Non-Operating Landowner Survey Results – New York Fact Sheet

Revealing significant opportunity for increased conservation practices on rented land to improve soil and water quality 

(SARATOGA SPRINGS), New York — Today, American Farmland Trust, the organization behind the national movement No Farms No Food®, released the New York state fact sheet summarizing results from its Non-Operating Landowners, or NOLs, Survey which surveyed individually or partnership owned lands in New York, not institutions or trusts. The New York results are promising, demonstrating that landowners care about their land and are keenly interested in stewarding their land well — keeping it in farming and altering lease terms to support conservation. 

A full report will be released this winter drawing conclusion across all the surveyed states to inform a national conservation agenda. 

“We began this research in 2018 to better understand attitudes related to conservation practices and how to better serve farmland and ranchland owners who do not farm their land but rent it to operators. Thirty-nine percent of farmland in the U.S. is rented, yet in some U.S. counties that number is nearing 80%. Therefore, non-operating landowners are an important stakeholder for implementation of conservation and climate resilient practices. Further, a high percentage of this land is owned by women,” said Gabrielle Roesch-McNally, AFT Women for the Land director.  

Anecdotally, AFT has found that often there is a perception that landowners don’t want or do not support conservation practices on their rented ground. Thankfully, AFT’s research reveals this gap does not exist. If farmers and landowners start talking and are provided with the right resources, AFT, policymakers, natural resource agencies and conservation groups can better support the implementation of conservation practices on rented lands.  

Specifically, the New York results are telling in how the needle can begin to move on conservation. In New York,  

  • Along with the local soil and conservation district, the farmer is the most trusted source for conservation information. 
  • Landowners are receptive to changing the terms of their lease to support their farmers in experimenting with more conservation on their land.  
  • The desire for landowners to keep the land in farming reveals the symbolic importance of the land, an important entry point for conversations. 
  • Targeting the NOLS audience with educational materials can improve their awareness of and willingness to support conservation and partnership with farmers to meet larger goals for their land and its legacy. 

In other words, if you are a farmer who wants to try new conservation practices on land you rent, this survey is good news.  Your landowner is probably supportive, and s/he trusts your judgement as a farming expert.  But they need to hear from you! 

AFT is building a resource bank of state fact sheets and other resources on the Farmland Information Center for NOLs and farmers who rent land.   

AFT New York staff are available to answer questions and assist all concerned, contact David Haight, E: newyork@farmland.org. P: (518) 581-0078 

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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 a half million additional acres and supported thousands of farm families.