by Melissa Campbell, PCC Farmland Trust Stewardship and Land Associate
This article was originally published in April 2009
Farmland provides much more than food. Well-stewarded farmland provides habitat for wildlife, preserves scenic open space, and helps filter our water and the air we breathe.
Organic practices take farmland stewardship one step further by eliminating synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The PCC Farmland Trust is fortunate to work with farmers who are national leaders in agricultural stewardship and we applaud the many efforts they already have initiated.
In 2008 the trust formalized a Farmland Stewardship Program. This reflects our ongoing commitment to ensure the integrity and long-term sustainability of each conservation easement held by the trust. Conserving land is, after all, only the first step to lasting protection.
For the trust, stewardship begins long before a project is completed. Early in a project, we begin to document unique natural features and critical habitat areas. This groundwork helps us evaluate the condition of the property and also helps us understand how our properties change over time — documenting trends and changes.
Once a property is secured and the conservation values of a property understood, we work with the farmer to restore biodiversity and enhance agricultural practices.
The trust also believes stewardship includes cultivating a new generation of farmers. As we develop our program, we’ll continue to find ways to help young farmers gain access to land. Ultimately, our stewardship program will encompass all aspects of well-managed farmland — including shepherding new farmers onto our properties.
Another part of our stewardship program involves annual monitoring of trust properties to ensure the land is being farmed using organic practices. Monitoring our properties every year will help us understand how our properties fare over time and ultimately help us direct our resources — both natural and financial — as the stewardship program evolves.