Chimacum farmworker on agricultural land protected by the Land Trust. Photo by Mae Wolfe.
We’re excited to share that Jefferson Land Trust was recently awarded a Soil Health Stewards Program grant from the American Farmland Trust’s National Agricultural Land Network (NALN). The $10,000 grant and associated training will help our stewardship staff better evaluate the soil conditions on farmland the Land Trust has helped protect, and better support the farmers, ranchers, and other landowners who steward these permanently protected agricultural soils.
“Soil health is a paramount conservation value protected in our agricultural conservation easements,” says Erik Kingfisher, Jefferson Land Trust’s Stewardship Director. “This program is helping us support agricultural landowners’ land management practices in a way that will help preserve soil health over time.”
Chimacum farmworker in a greenhouse at a farm protected by the Land Trust. Photo by Mae Wolfe.
Protecting the long-term soil health of our community’s working agricultural lands protects the productivity values of those lands: a fundamental component, says Erik, of impactful farmland protection. Healthy soils are the backbone of productive, profitable, and resilient farmland that farmers, and our community, can count on to produce food and fiber year after year — even in a warming climate. Degraded soils, on the other hand, can lead to issues like erosion and low crop yields, and leave a poor legacy for future generations.
While Jefferson Land Trust already includes provisions designed to protect soils in our agricultural easements, this grant will allow us to better work with the landowners responsible for stewarding these soils by helping them overcome any barriers to adopting soil health practices they are experiencing, and connecting them with helpful technical resources.
The program includes a multi-day virtual training designed to help land trusts and other agricultural land protection organizations learn about the benefits of healthy soil and the conservation practices that enhance soil health, and how to communicate effectively with farmers and landowners on these topics. Erik and our Stewardship Assistant, Marlowe Moser, attended the training in April.
“We learned a lot from the training that we can bring to our conversations with landowners,” Erik says. “It provided clear guidelines about the type of practices that can result in poor soil health, and also outlined many ways to improve soil health based on the best available science.”
Land Trust Stewardship team members Marlowe (left) and Erik on their way to meet with partner landowners.
“I found the training really helpful,” Marlowe agrees. “We learned a lot about the components to look for in healthy soil and the process of soil regeneration. It provided a lot of resources that will allow us to take what makes sense for our own program.”
Following the training, according to the grant terms, Marlowe and Erik designed and submitted an action plan to NALN that outlines the steps our team plans to take in developing our soil health support over the next year. Two virtual check-ins with NALN team members during the year, as well as an evaluation we’ll submit next April, will help us ensure we’re on track to meet our goals.
Starting next year, using the framework developed by NALN, we plan to schedule one-on-one meetings with agricultural landowners to help run qualitative rapid in-field assessments to measure soil health. The program also helped our team learn about agricultural conservation easement language and other agreements and contracts that the Land Trust may implement in the future to better support soil health on agricultural lands we protect.