Protecting the Future of Georgia’s Agricultural Industry Through Conservation: AFT Welcomes Georgia Farmland Protection Associate
I am joining American Farmland Trust as the Georgia Farmland Protection Associate. In this role, I will work closely with NRCS, land trusts, and farmers and landowners throughout the state to protect crop and pastureland from development.
A connection to the land has always been a driving force in my life and career. I grew up in urban Southeast Florida, snorkeling on the coral reefs just offshore and fishing and kayaking in the Everglades to the west. Even as a child, I watched the last few open spaces disappear or become overcrowded. The last cattle pasture on 441 turned into a strip mall, and the sea grape trees that lined the dunes along the beach road were cut down so drivers could have a view of the ocean.
Fascinated by “old Florida” and the way that humans changed the landscape, I studied anthropology in college, focusing on human-environment interactions. At the same time, I was working at a local nature center, helping conserve vital sea turtle nesting habitat on the coast and educating the public about marine ecosystems. These two decisions became the catalyst for my future education and career; I went to the University of Georgia’s Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources to pursue my MS in Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management. I fell in love with the Georgia landscape, from the rolling hills of the Piedmont to the pine forests and the lakes. Upon graduation, I began working for the local soil and water district in conjunction with NRCS, where I gained a vast appreciation for Georgia agriculture. I continued with NRCS as a Soil Conservation Technician, deepening my relationships with local farmers and landowners and becoming well-versed in conservation planning and regenerative agriculture practices.
By joining American Farmland Trust as the Georgia Farmland Protection Associate, I will work with NRCS, land conservation professionals, farmers, and landowners in Georgia to protect vital cropland and pastureland from encroaching urban development through purchased conservation easements. Farmland protection programs such as ACEP–ALE provide landowners with financial compensation while permanently protecting their land from uses other than agriculture. The program encourages land stewardship and best management practices to help protect the environment. According to AFT’s Farms Under Threat 2040: Choosing an Abundant Future report, Georgia has some of the most threatened farmland in the country, ranking 4th in projected acres to be converted by 2040. It is crucial that Georgians work together to protect our agricultural lands while encouraging smart, planned growth. The state has already made an important stride toward this goal; in March, the Georgia Legislature passed the Georgia Farmland Conservation Act, which would provide a state-based financial incentive for farmers who enroll land in a permanent conservation easement.