Our top stories of 2019 - American Farmland Trust

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Our Top Stories of 2019

December 23rd, 2019

When it comes to farming, every year brings a unique mix of challenges, successes, and changes to the land. It’s one of the things that makes farming so special. No two years are ever the same. 

We like to think we’re also constantly evolving here at American Farmland Trust. In the past year, we’ve worked hard to bring you stories that showcase what it means to be a farmer or rancher in 2019. Below are a few of the most popular pieces of content we’ve published in the past year.

The math is in: Soil health practices produce real return on investment

Our nation’s farmers and ranchers care deeply about the land. They want to use practices that improve soil health and protect water quality like no-till or strip-till, cover crops, and nutrient management. But, farming is a business like any other. If the numbers don’t add up, it’s hard to make improvements that are good for the environment.

In 2019, AFT released new research including profiles of four farmers around the country that proves soil health benefits go right to farmers’ bottom line. By implementing soil heath building conservation practices on their land, all farmers profiled achieved increases in yield and profit as well as significant returns on their investment.

Empowering and engaging women is the first step to tackling the problem of climate change and land degradation

When Amanda Freund, a 34-year-old dairy farmer from Connecticut, stood up at the CNN Climate Town Hall to pose her question to South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, it was a proud moment for AFT’s Women for the Land Director Dr. Gabrielle Roesch-McNally and women farmers everywhere. 

In order to fundamentally tackle the problem of climate change and land degradation, we must look to build a more equitable future, one that has women’s empowerment and the engagement of marginalized groups at its core. This includes engaging and uplifting voices like Amanda’s.

New Census of Agriculture Shows Decline in Number of America’s Farms, Farmers, and Farmland

The 2017 Census of Agriculture was released in April 2019 and showed an across-the-board drop in the number of farms, farmers, and farmland in the United States. Land in farms declined from 914,527,657 acres in 2012 to 900,217,576 acres in 2017, while the number of farms and “primary producers” decreased from 2,109,303 in 2012 to 2,042,220 in 2017. 

This news has serious implications for food production, our environment, and the next generation of farmers.

Why I Work in Farmland Protection: An Origin Story

The first time that AFT’s digital communications manager, Greg Plotkin, hopped onto the back of a rusted-out pick-up truck at Rosedale Farms in Simsbury, Connecticut, his life changed forever. 

The 100-year-old farm on the banks of the Farmington River taught Greg the value of hard work and also exposed him to the world of farmland protection for the first time. The farm was protected by an agricultural conservation easement in 2004, ensuring it stays in agriculture forever. Now more than a decade into a career in agriculture, Greg continues to feel honored to work for AFT. He gets to work every day to help ensure future generations of kids have the opportunity to learn the types of lessons that can only be taught out in between rows of sweet corn.

Signs of a Modern-Day Dust Bowl We Simply Can’t Ignore

When AFT’s Climate director, Dr. Jennifer Moore-Kucera, saw a giant wall of “dust” hit the city of Lubbock, Texas, during rush hour, it stunned her. When most people think of the history of droughts in the Plains, they tend to think of the Dust Bowl era in the 1930s. However, statistical data uncovers that modern days have experienced more severe droughts than the earlier 1900s, resulting in modern-day dust storms in place of the dust bowl.  

This should not be tolerated. There is no need for this to happen. When this land was first discovered, it was described as a “sea of grasses” — now it is a sea of dust. The good news is that there are solutions. AFT’s “Farmers Combat Climate Change” initiative is helping farmers improve soil health to help reverse climate change and improve resiliency to events such as recent floods.