Cultivating Healthy Soil and Clean Water in New York
Farmers’ Guide for Protecting Water Quality on Long Island
RESOURCES • PROGRAMS • PRACTICES
Fertile soil on well-managed farms acts as a natural water filter. But when farms are lost to development or when farmland is not managed well, soils are degraded and drinking water suffers.
AFT has helped craft programs to assist farmers in stewarding their land and protecting drinking water for more than nine million state residents in New York City and upstate cities. Today, we are working with farmers in two targeted New York watersheds to help them do their part to improve water quality.
Conservation activities on farms are most effective when coordinated within a specific community or watershed. In New York, we’re currently focused on Long Island and the Great Lakes.
Since 2011, AFT and our local partners at Cornell Cooperative Extension have worked closely with farmers on Long Island’s East End growing sweet corn, potatoes, and other crops to experiment with new conservation practices.
We help farmers get real-world experience with techniques such as controlled-release nitrogen fertilizer (CRNF), conservation tillage, and new varieties of cover crops. These practices help improve soil fertility and farm productivity while retaining nutrients and soil moisture – helping farmers deal with severe weather, like droughts and major rainstorms.
Accomplishments to date include:
Hosting Soil Health Field Days for more than 75 farmers on Long IslandRead More
Providing support to partners working with farmers to explore conservation practices
Helping sweet corn growers reduce nitrogen rates by 20 percent using CRNF
Helping potato growers reduce nitrogen rates by 24 percent using CRNF
Creating the Farmers' Guide to Protecting Water Quality on Long IslandFarmers' Guide
In Lake Ontario, excess phosphorous threatens drinking water, wildlife, and recreation. We are helping vegetable farmers on the southern side of Lake Ontario experiment with new conservation practices to improve soil health. AFT is also helping dairy farmers and field crop producers to learn about soil practices – including tillage practices, cover crops, and soil health tests.
AFT is launching a new initiative in the Great Lakes region working with landowners and farmer lessees to incentivize conservation practices on rented farmland. Conservation practices help reduce nutrient runoff and protect water quality, while building the long-term health of the soil. During the planning phase of this project, AFT realized women landowners were interested in conservation on their land but under-served in education about these practices.
Through AFT’s women’s learning circles, landowners learn about the benefits of conservation practices and how to work with farmer lessees to develop leasing arrangements that are mutually beneficial and promote healthy soils and clean water.
Accomplishments to date include:
Helping farmers plant over 5,000 acres of cover crops in the last two growing seasons
Assisting partners working with farmers in demonstrating soil health practices such as cover cropping and zone tillage
Sponsoring a Western New York Soil Health Field Day for more than 175 farmers
Hosting women's learning circles for landowners about conservation practices
Stories from the Field
Many farmers on Long Island and in the Great Lakes have already taken action to protect water quality and improve soil health. As part of our Cultivating Clean Water in New York project, we'll be highlighting stories of farmers and their conservation practices – why they do them, and how they have impacted their farms.
Schmitt Family Farm (Riverhead, NY, Long Island)
Phil Schmitt's family has grown vegetables on Long Island for over 150 years. Learn all about the conservation practices Phil uses and the economic benefits that come with soil health management.
Pedersen Farms (Seneca Castle, NY, Great Lakes)
Rick Pedersen owns a 1,500-acre vegetable farm and hop yard in the Finger Lakes region of the Great Lakes watershed. Improving the health of his farm's soil has taught him the needs of each of his fields and how to protect the waters that surround them.
MKZ Farms (Jamesport, NY, Long Island)
Mark Zaweski protected the 100 acres he and his wife Emilie farm on Long Island's East End with a conservation easement almost 20 years ago. He's also taken steps to help build the farm's soil health and protect water quality.