Landowners and Farmers Partnering for Clean Water in the Great Lakes

Bridging the gap between conservation-minded women landowners, operators and agricultural retailers

Across America, farmland is increasingly owned by people who do not farm themselves. Many of these landowners are women who, as widows, daughters or sisters, inherit the land from a family member and in turn rent it out to a local farmer.

The dynamic of landowner and operator often makes the decision to implement conservation practices a complicated one.

Women landowners want to leave a lasting legacy and want to apply more conservation on their land, but may find it hard to communicate desires to their operators.

Many operators are ready to undertake more conservation practices, but want a better way to communicate to their landlord about sharing the risk (or increasing length of the lease).

Agricultural retailers are also key pieces to the conservation puzzle. They have established relationships with farmers and can help reinforce the utility of conservation practices being implemented by operators.

So far, no one has resolved how to engage farm retailers, women landowners and their operators in a way that results in the long-term use of more practices to reduce nutrient and soil sediment runoff on leased acres.

The Project

AFT's Landowners and Farmers Partnering for Clean Water in the Great Lakes project will address this critical assistance gap by pilot-testing a new model designed to meet the the unique conservation challenges of three key groups:

  1. Women landowners
  2. Farmers who lease land
  3. Agricultural retailers who provide support and advice to farmers

Geographically, the project is focused in Ohio (Portage and Toussaint River Basins, click for map) and New York (Genesee River Basin, click for map).

Our Goals

  • Expand the use of conservation practices that improve soil health and reduce run-off on leased farmland in the Great Lakes region.
  • Create a coordinated, replicable model for working with women landowners, operators and agricultural retailers to achieve measurable conservation outcomes.

Why the Great Lakes?

Our Strategy: Learning Circles, Workshops, and Roundtables

Starting in September 2017, AFT and experts from across the Great Lakes region will be hosting a series of Learning Circles for women landowners, workshops for operators leasing land, and roundtables for agricultural retailers. Sessions will be scheduled in both Ohio and New York.

Upcoming Learning Circles for Women Landowners

Attendance at ALL three sessions is strongly encouraged since participants play a critical role in determining what will be discussed at each meeting and will develop mutually-beneficial relationships with other outstanding women and natural resource organizations.

We will be sending out invitations and we expect demand to be high, so please submit your pre-registration as soon as possible to reserve your slot.

Upcoming Workshops for Operators Who Lease Land

We plan to offer a workshop focused on soil health – and better ways to communicate the importance of these practices to your landlord. Later in the project, we will offer a joint workshop for both landlords and operators so different sets of needs and concerns can be aired and solutions shared.

Upcoming Roundtables for Agricultural Retailers

We plan to host a round table for agricultural retailers this summer to secure their insights and opinions into landlord-operator relationships and how they can be improved or strengthened.


Useful Resources

Visit the Landowner Options page on AFT's Farmland Information Center for resources and tools to help owners of farm and ranch land improve on-farm conservation, protect their land from development, transfer their land to the next generation and lease land to agricultural producers.

Contact Us!

For information on upcoming activities in New York, please contact Joan Sinclair Petzen, Interim Executive Director/Agriculture Department Program Leader, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Wyoming County at JSP10@Cornell.edu or (585) 786-2251, Ext. 122.

For information on upcoming activities in Ohio, please contact Beth Landers from the Wood Soil and Water Conservation District at bethlanders@woodswcd.com or (419) 354.5517.

Partners and Funders

In addition to American Farmland Trust, this effort includes:



Primary funding support provided by:


Additional support provided by the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service in the form of training and the time of conservation district personnel and NRCS state personnel who use the new NRCS Resource Stewardship Tool with women non-operating landowners and farmers