Courtney Owens Named AFT’s New Southeast Regional Director
(Washington, D.C.) American Farmland Trust has named Dr. Courtney Owens as Southeast Regional Director to lead programs to protect farmland, promote sound farming practices and keep farmers on the land in Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.
“We are incredibly excited to have Courtney stepping into this important leadership role,” said David Haight, AFT Vice President of Programs. “He brings tremendous experience and connections and is a passionate changemaker. Courtney is going to enable AFT to ramp up efforts across the Southeast to keep land in farming, help farmers, including underserved farmers, be more resilient to climate change and other threats, and transfer farms to a new generation.”
During his 15-year career, Owens has led, implemented, evaluated, and reported on community-based rural development education programs. He joins AFT after serving in leadership roles with Kentucky State University, where he facilitated programming for Cooperative Extension, which assists individuals, including farmers, improve their quality of life with research-based educational programs. Owens also previously served at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University Extension and helped lead programs to assist farmers with adopting computer technology and overcoming barriers to broadband internet access as well as strengthening farm business management.
Owens’s experience in farming dates to the beginning of his career in 2006 when he served with the United States Peace Corps in Burkina Faso, where he trained over 100 farmers in sustainable agriculture and environmental practices. He earned his PhD in 2016 in agricultural education and communication at The University of Florida.
American Farmland Trust’s Farms Under Threat research has shown that the Southeastern United States has among the highest concentrations of threatened farmland in America with nearly 2.5 million acres of agricultural land converted to development in North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Georgia between 2001-16. An additional 3.9 million acres of farmland is projected to be converted to urban and highly developed and low-density residential land uses in these five states by 2040 under current trends.
“I am excited about the opportunity to help shape AFT work in the Southeast, especially to address the abundance of regional threatened farmland cited in Farms Under Threat,” Owens said. “Throughout my career, I have worked hard to help farmers, including underserved communities, advance innovative policy solutions that protect farmland and support those who steward it. AFT is a national leader in this movement and I could not be any more humbled with their confidence in me to lead the way in the Southeast.”
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 6.8 million acres of agricultural lands, advanced environmentally-sound farming practices on millions of additional acres and supported thousands of farm families.