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Landowners and Farmers Partnering for Clean Water in the Great Lakes

Conservation Practices on Rented Land

Watch a video about Landowners and Farmers Partnering for Clean Water in the Great Lakes

Nearly 284 million acres of U.S. land—or 31 percent of the nation’s land in farms—are owned and rented out by landowners who do not farm, or “non-operating” landowners—many of whom are women. This dynamic can make the decision to implement conservation practices a complicated one for both farmers and landowners.

Agricultural retailers are also a key piece of the conservation puzzle. They have established relationships with farmers and can help reinforce the benefits of implementing conservation practices, both for the environment and the bottom line.

The Landowners and Farmers Partnering for Clean Water in the Great Lakes project demonstrated the potential for protecting water quality in the Great Lakes by effectively reaching out to non-operating landowners, farmers, and agricultural retailers. American Farmland Trust and our partners employed several tactics to connect with these groups and secured commitments to embrace farm-based conservation measures.

As a result of our efforts:

  • non-operating agricultural landowners have a clearer path toward implementing conservation practices;
  • farmers know how to improve relationships with landowners and incorporate conservation practices on leased land; and
  • conservation professionals are better serving both groups, including women landowners.

The results of this critical work, which was accomplished over three years, will strengthen opportunities for farming throughout the Great Lakes region, and will lead to increased environmental benefits, including healthier soil and improved water quality and wildlife habitat.

Pilots were conducted in watersheds in two states—the Portage and Toussaint River Basins in northwestern Ohio, and the Genesee River Basin in western New York—where 22 to 49 percent of the farmland is leased.

Farmers and Landowners

Learn more about the people who participated in the work and the communities where it took place.

Project Team

American Farmland Trust collaborated with a team of organizations for Landowners and Farmers Partnering for Clean Water in the Great Lakes, including Ottawa Soil & Water Conservation District, Wood Soil & Water Conservation District, Cornell University Cooperative Extension, Utah State University and the IPM Institute of North America. Funding for the work was provided by the Great Lakes Protection Fund. The Great Lakes Protection Fund’s mission is to “identify, demonstrate, and promote regional action to improve the health of the Great Lakes ecosystem.” The Fund is a permanent, private, not-for-profit corporation that launches innovative solutions to improve the health of the Great Lakes. Since 1989, the Fund has awarded more than $84 million in support to catalyze the continuous development of new technologies and practical regional actions to improve the health of the Great Lakes.