PURPOSE AND OVERVIEW
Land trusts and public Purchase of Agricultural Conservation Easement (PACE) programs steward over 6 million acres of permanently protected agricultural land and continue to work with landowners to put more productive land under easement. Soil health improvements on this permanently protected land will have a lasting impact. Accordingly, AFT’s Soil Health Stewards program seeks to support land trusts and public PACE programs, both those already engaged in this work and those just starting out, in growing their efforts to engage and encourage producers and landowners of protected land to address soil health.
Beginning in the fall of 2021, and focusing on the Northeast region, AFT began to provide unique learning opportunities and support for staff of land conservation organizations and public PACE programs from across the nation. In the spring of 2022, AFT brought the Soil Health Stewards program to the Southeast region. In October 2022, the training moves to the Midwest region.
Participants in AFT’s comprehensive training will learn about the economic and environmental benefits of soil health practices and the science behind them while building skills to support farmers, ranchers, and landowners in adopting these practices.
Participants who complete this training will be able to:
- Communicate effectively about primary benefits of healthy soil and types of conservation practices that enhance soil health.
- Understand basic challenges involved in soil health practice implementation.
- Connect interested producers with technical advisors, cost-share programs, and other resources to help them successfully use soil health practices.
- Understand options and alternatives for addressing and incentivizing specific soil health practices through agricultural conservation easements and other instruments.
AWARD AMOUNT & ELIGIBLE APPLICANTS
In 2022, AFT invites applications from land trusts and public PACE programs (state or local) from Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Minnesota, West Virginia, and Wisconsin that hold easements on land protected through USDA’s Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP). Entities must be interested in working with landowners and producers on protected land to increase awareness and adoption of soil health practices. Twenty-five entities will each receive $10,000 to enable two staff to attend a three-day virtual training and to develop programing to engage landowners and producers around soil health.
In addition to the training and $10,000 grant, participating entities will receive an additional year of technical assistance from AFT for their outreach efforts. Support will include periodic networking calls and individualized assistance to partners.
REQUIREMENTS FOR ENTITY PARTICIPATION
- Dedicate up to two staff to attend a virtual Soil Health Stewards training on October 11, 12, 13, & 14. Staff must attend the entire training and participate in all activities and discussions.
- Develop a Soil Health Stewards Action Plan describing actions the agency or organization will take to promote soil health with landowners and farmers, including those who own or manage land on which the organization or agency holds an easement. (Time will be set aside during the training for initial plan development. A final version of the plan will be due by November 30, 2022).
- Participate in project evaluation by September 2023. The evaluation will include a required pre- and post- training survey, an impact assessment and an optional interview with AFT program staff and consultants.
- Applications are due by 5:00 p.m. (EST) on July 1, 2022.
- Letters of awards for accepted applications will be granted by August 15, 2022.
- Soil Health Stewards training will take place virtually on October 11-14, 2022.
DISBURSEMENT OF FUNDS
- $3,000 sent prior to virtual training (October 11, 2022).
- $3,000 sent once Soil Health Stewards Action Plan is submitted (November 30, 2022).
- $4,000 sent upon completion of evaluation (September 30, 2023).
- Funding is contingent on the awardee completing a Grant Award Form and submitting it within 14 days after receiving letter of award.
- A W9 is required to receive awarded funds and must be submitted along with the Grant Award Form
- Entities are asked to join the National Agricultural Land Network either as an organization or as an individual.
- If the awardee does not provide required documents within 14 days of notification of award, AFT may choose to award funds to another applicant.
- This is a competitive application process. Priority will be given to applicants on the basis of both number of agricultural conservation easements held and demonstrated interest in advancing soil health as expressed in the application narrative.
HOW TO APPLY
To apply, submit a completed Soil Health Stewards Program Application electronically through this link: https://aftgrantapplication.powerappsportals.com/soil-health/
Contact Beth Fraser, National Agricultural Land Network Manager, at email@example.com or 413-240-4282