American Farmland Trust is the only national organization that takes a holistic approach to agriculture, focusing on the land itself, the agricultural practices used on that land, and the farmers and ranchers who do the work. AFT launched the conservation agriculture movement, and continues to raise public awareness through our No Farms, No Food message. Since our founding in 1980, AFT has helped permanently protect over 6.5 million acres of agricultural lands, advanced environmentally-sound farming practices on millions of additional acres, and supported thousands of farm families. Long a pioneering leader, AFT is now riding a new wave of growth, driven by agriculture’s most pressing needs and opportunities.
In 2014, the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service estimated that 31% of U.S. farmland was owned by people who do not farm. In some of the nation’s most highly productive counties, as much as 80% of farmland is rented. There are nearly 2 million of these “non-operator landlords” – individuals, partnerships, trusts, corporations or other entities – who rent owned land to farmers and ranchers for agriculture. At least 37% of non-operator landlords are women, owning at least 87 million acres of farmland. In addition to being “principal landlords,” many more women increasingly own farmland through inheritance with siblings, spouses or other family members.
AFT began working with the Women Food and Agriculture Network in 2012 to expand the use of this group’s proven “conservation learning circle” model. Since then, we’ve worked with over 500 women landowners in 8 states. We continue to hear the same themes from women:– they care deeply about the long-term health of their land; they crave new information about all facets of agriculture, yet don’t always know where to get it; they trust and respect their tenant farmers, but desire more frequent communication; and they regularly face, and overcome, gender barriers.
AFT has recently added to the growing body of research showing the effectiveness of learning circles. Via a series of semi-structured telephone interviews of women who attended learning circles in Illinois and Indiana between 2014 and 2017, we learned that 74% of learning circle attendees took a conservation action (such as holding a family or tenant meeting to discuss conservation, visiting with a conservation professional, or inquiring about programs at the local NRCS office) and 23% took an action that resulted in change on the land (such as negotiating a partnership with a tenant farmer to install cover crops, or enrolling in local cost share programs). We learned that the two greatest barriers they face regarding good stewardship of their farmland are gender and lack of information.
AFT believes that protecting the most productive, versatile, and resilient farmland and improving its soil will benefit farmers, consumers, and the environment. We simply cannot meet the challenges facing agriculture today if we are not engaging the landowners as well as the farmers. Women are underserved; yet when engaged, they often act. The goal of AFT’s Women for the Land Initiative is simple: we are intentionally engaging women who own and manage farmland and ranchland in our mission to protect farmland, promote sound farming practices, and keep farmers on the land.
We launched our national Women for the Land initiative in early 2017. Our strategy is to (1) conduct research to help us understand this audience and identify the barriers they face, (2) engage women landowners to learn more, test outreach/education innovations and gather input, and (3) develop innovations based on research and engagement to help us test and refine new ideas that can have a scalable impact. Based on all of this, we will develop and promote policies that better serve women landowners.
We engage women landowners throughout the country. We run active programs in all of AFT’s regions, and are developing new models for engagement based on the solid foundation of the learning circle approach. We implemented an 11-state NOLs survey in late 2018 to better understand tenant-landowner relationships, leasing structures, and attitudes towards conservation.
Women for the Land has the support of USDA and numerous partners, all working together to understand the needs of this audience better so we can better serve them. The initiative is currently led by AFT’s Midwest Director and is ready for a full-time director to fully meet the needs of this critical audience.
AFT is seeking a strong and collaborative leader to lead and expand its Women for the Land Initiative throughout the country. The Director reports to the Vice President for Programs, who oversees the managers of national programs. The Director also will work closely with (1) AFT’s second Vice President for Programs, who oversees the managers of AFT’s six regional offices, (2) AFT’s Research Director, (3) AFT’s Regional and State Directors, and (4) support staff implementing the Initiative. The Director will provide overall leadership for Women for the Land and collaborate and coordinate with regional offices ensure that AFT’s programming is strategic, synergistic, efficiently-delivered, well-received, and impactful.
The ideal work location is in close proximity to one of AFT’s six offices (Seattle, WA; Sacramento, CA; Saratoga Springs, NY; Sycamore, IL; Northampton, MA or Washington, DC). However, this can be a remote position.
Duties & Responsibilities
The primary responsibilities of this position are to direct strategy, provide leadership, and support program activities for AFT’s Women for the Land initiative to advance AFT’s mission across the nation. Specific responsibilities include:
- Designs, develops, and implements initiative strategies and projects;
- Provides expertise within and outside of AFT regarding how to reach and engage women non-operating landowners (WNOLs) in conservation, providing access to land for beginning farmers, and farmland protection;
- Works with federal and state policy staff to research, develop and advance policies that promote dialogue between farmers and landowners, and promote pathways for non-operating landowners to access programs and information on equal footing;
- Works collaboratively with academic partners to further our collective understanding of what WNOLs want and need to manage their land well, and develop new opportunities for engagement;
- Works with our academic partners and regional staff to manage a rigorous evaluative component to the work, ensuring that the impact and effectiveness of initiative activities is tracked and used to develop new programming, engage new partners, and continues to build scientific justification of the importance of this audience;
- Works collaboratively with the two Vice Presidents of Programs, other national initiative directors, and regional staff to ensure that Women for the Land is effectively integrated into national strategies and regional programs;
- Works with Development staff to raise funds for the initiative;
- Works with Communications staff to actively communicate about the initiative;
- Work with the Finance and Administration staff to manage initiative budgets and staff;
- Provides national visibility for AFT at workshops, and conferences; and
- Supports a strong team culture of shared learning among AFT staff.
- Other duties as assigned.
The Director must be outgoing and energetic and have direct professional experience working on agriculture and conservation issues. The individual must have knowledge of and experience with one or more of AFT’s mission areas (conservation practices, farmland protection, the generational transition of land) and experience with social and cultural dimensions of agriculture.
The Director must have the demonstrated ability to work collaboratively with academic, non-governmental and governmental partners to deliver programming and measure progress. This position also requires fundraising experience and the proven ability to work with a development team to secure institutional, governmental and private funds. Because this is a relatively “new” target audience for most conservation and agricultural professionals, we do not require previous work experience specifically with women non-operating landowners. However, the Director should be experienced with the issues of gender bias and possess intuitive and empathetic characteristics to understand the subtleties in farmer/landowner relationships and the complex social and cultural barriers to change. The Director must be able to work closely with women farmland owners, agricultural and environmental organizations, universities and other research institutions, and state/federal government agencies.
Other requirements include:
- A BA or BS degree and a minimum of 10 years of related work experience in agriculture, soil health, agricultural land tenure issues and the generational transition of land, conservation, sustainability, social/behavioral science and/or farmland protection.
- Technical knowledge of social or behavioral science a plus, especially as it relates to cultural barriers to conservation.
- Professional or personal experience working with non-operating landowners a plus.
- Work history of developing and implementing effective programs and projects with a strategic vision.
- Experience researching, developing and/or implementing policies.
- Demonstrated project management skill and experience managing diverse teams of individuals, peers, and partners – most of whom do not directly report to you.
- Demonstrated experience and success in fundraising.
- Excellent written and verbal communication skills.
- Highly motivated with strong interpersonal skills.
- Must bring a collaborative, outgoing, professional, and innovative approach to tackling these issues.
- The ideal candidate will have experience collaborating with people in other offices
- Ability to deliver high quality work in a dynamic organization under time pressure.
- Willingness to occasionally commute to one of our six regional offices for meetings (Seattle, WA; Sacramento, CA; Saratoga Springs, NY; Sycamore, IL; Northampton, MA or Washington, DC).
- Ability to travel approximately 33% of time.
Salary is competitive and commensurate with experience and background. AFT provides a full and generous benefits package.
If you are eager to join our team, please visit this page to apply.
Please include a cover letter with resume for consideration.
American Farmland Trust provides equal employment opportunities (EEO) to all employees and applicants for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability or genetics. In addition to federal law requirements, American Farmland Trust complies with applicable state and local laws governing nondiscrimination in employment in every location in which the organization has facilities. This policy applies to all terms and conditions of employment, including recruiting, hiring, placement, promotion, termination, layoff, recall, transfer, leaves of absence, compensation and training.