Land Protection Projects

AFT is itself an agricultural land trust, having permanently protected more than 200 properties in 25 states (totaling over 73,000 acres) using agricultural conservation easements.

AFT’s Role

In our role as an agricultural land trust, we:

  • Steward and manage AFT’s current portfolio (100 easements on 40,696 acres in 20 states, 3 fee land properties on 558 acres in two states)
  • Acquire new conservation easements to protect important agricultural land
  • Partner with other land trusts on joint projects, or where AFT’s specialized assistance is sought
  • Administer farmland protection funds that support agricultural land protection and the work of land trusts that protect farms and ranches

AFT is Proud of the Farms and Ranches we have Protected

Contact our Easement Project Manager

To learn about options for working with American Farmland Trust to protect you farm or ranch, please contact: Alison Volk Easement Project Manager American Farmland Trust avolk@farmland.org

AFT views each of our easements as a partnership with the landowner. The best agricultural easements are written with a great deal of flexibility, to allow for future barns, fencing, land clearing, and other structures or activities essential for farming and ranching. AFT staff work with the landowner to make sure these property improvements can be undertaken in a manner that fully respects the terms of the easement. We also visit each property at least once a year, maintaining close ties with the landowner.

AFT’s approach to land stewardship is based on an appreciation of agricultural producers and a respect for landowner’s privacy and need to operate agricultural activities on their land. We are thankful to our easement donors and landowners for working with us to protect their farms and ranches and helping to ensure a future for agriculture in America.

AFT is committed to protecting land not only for agricultural use but also to preserving the wide variety of natural resources found on America’s farms and ranches.  In addition to conserving agricultural land, our easements conserve valuable and important wetlands, forests, wildlife habitat and scenic areas.

Protected Farms

As an early leader in the agricultural land protection movement, AFT began accepting easements when few land trusts existed.  In many of the regions where we’ve worked, AFT has helped create regional, state, and local land trusts. We have  increasingly passed along this critical work to these qualified local entities.

AFT remains an active land trust but we are selective in choosing projects to undertake. We still play a critical role in protecting farms and ranches across the United States and we accept easements in select instances, including:

  • In locations where another agricultural land trust doesn’t operate
  • In partnership with another land trust (generally a group that is working to increase its capacity or knowledge of agriculture)
  • When the easement project involves an innovation or novel provision that AFT is uniquely qualified to take on
  • When the easement project is directly connected to some other AFT function or program (e.g., AFT may want to hold an easement on property that is being protected specifically to enhance pollinator habitat when there is a direct connection to AFT’s pollinator project).

Our Work with Land Trust Partners

AFT recognizes that there are large parts of the United States not served by other agricultural land trusts and seeks to fill this void.  In many states. AFT co-holds easements with our local partners. This is an essential role when the goal is to advance protection of agricultural lands all across this nation. Beyond this, AFT’s work as a land trust grounds us in the ever-changing realities of agricultural land protection, enabling us to be more effective at advocating for federal and state farmland protection policies and funding, and assisting other land trusts through the National Agricultural Land Network.

Because of AFT’s success advancing other entities that protect agricultural land, AFT can now engage in easement deals far more selectively—focusing on those that wouldn’t happen without AFT. But although the number of projects may be low, the strategic importance is high.

Given the need for protecting farmland, it’s essential that no viable project slip because another land trust is not positioned to take it on. And it’s critical that AFT continue to experiment with innovative ways of protecting farmland (including novel easement provisions), so that we can continue our traditional role of sharing best practices with the land trust community.

And finally, because AFT is the primary advocate for federal funding of agricultural easements, it’s essential that AFT continue to take on projects—as that brings first hand knowledge and credibility to our policy work.