A woman holding a bunch of radishes in the garden.
February 11, 2021
Albany, NY

New York State Agriculture Commissioner Announces Application Open for AEM-Leopold Conservation Award

New York State Agriculture Commissioner Announces Application Open for AEM-Leopold Conservation Award
Second Annual Award Program Recognizes Extraordinary Achievement in Environmental Stewardship on Agricultural Land

New York State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball today announced that applications are being accepted for New York State’s 2021 Agricultural Environmental Management (AEM) Leopold Conservation Award. Presented by the Sand County Foundation, the award honors a farm and its nominating Soil and Water Conservation District for their extraordinary achievement in environmental stewardship.  The $10,000 award is provided by the Sand County Foundation, in partnership with the Department, American Farmland Trust, and Cornell Cooperative Extension.

Commissioner Ball said, “The prestigious New York AEM-Leopold Conservation Award recognizes farmers who are committed to protecting the environment through the preservation of soil and water and leaving the land better than how they found it. We thank the Sand County Foundation for collaborating with us to host this most distinguished award and look forward to honoring this year’s winners.”

Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the award recognizes landowners who inspire others with their dedication to land, water and wildlife habitat management on private, working land. Eligible candidates successfully incorporate AEM Best Management Practices on the farm, which assist the landowner in meeting environmental and business goals that ensure long-term viability for future generations.

Applications for the New York AEM-Leopold Conservation Award are now being accepted, with county Soil and Water Conservation Districts applying on behalf of the farm. Applicants should demonstrate conservation leadership and outreach in the agricultural sector and be an inspiration to other landowners.

Applications must be received by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets by April 1, 2021. Nominations will be reviewed by an independent panel of conservation leaders. Interested candidates should contact their local county Soil and Water Conservation District. The application can be found at www.sandcountyfoundation.org/ApplyLCA.

The AEM-Leopold Conservation Award Program in New York is made possible thanks to the generous support of American Farmland Trust, Sand County Foundation, New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, Cornell Cooperative Extension, The Ida and Robert Gordon Family Foundation, Farm Credit East, the New York State Agribusiness Association, and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

The first New York AEM-Leopold Conservation Award recipient, Sang Lee Farms of Peconic, was selected in September 2020.

Kevin McAleese, Sand County Foundation President and Chief Executive Officer, said: “Recipients of this award are real life examples of conservation-minded agriculture. These hard-working families are essential to our environment, food system and rural economy.”

John Piotti, President and CEO of American Farmland Trust, said: “As a national sponsor for Sand County Foundation’s Leopold Conservation Award, American Farmland Trust celebrates the hard work and dedication of farmers, ranchers and forestland owners. At AFT we believe that conservation in agriculture requires a focus on the land, the practices and the people and this award recognizes the integral role of all three.”

Christopher Watkins, Cornell Cooperative Extension Director, said, “Cornell Cooperative Extension is proud to help the Sand County Foundation recognize New York’s wonderful farm families’ commitment to environmental sustainability.  New York’s farmers have a strong legacy of producing local foods while working hand in hand to protect the land, stewarding it for the next generation of farmers.” 

Leopold Conservation Award Program

The Leopold Conservation Award is a competitive award that recognizes landowner achievement in voluntary conservation. Sand County Foundation presents the award in California, Colorado, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin, and in New England (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont). Learn more at www.leopoldconservationaward.org

Sand County Foundation

Sand County Foundation inspires and enables a growing number of private landowners to ethically manage natural resources in their care, so future generations have clean and abundant water, healthy soil to support agriculture and forestry, plentiful habitat for wildlife and opportunities for outdoor recreation. www.sandcountyfoundation.org

New York State AEM Award 

New York State’s annual Agricultural Environmental Management Award winners are chosen from nominees submitted by County Soil and Water Conservation Districts from around the state. The first Agricultural Environmental Management Award was presented in 2002; prior to that, the award was known as the Agricultural Stewardship Award.

New York State’s AEM framework is a model for the nation as a voluntary, incentive-based approach to protect natural resources and meet the economic needs of the agricultural community.

American Farmland Trust

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 its No Farms, No Food message. Since its 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. www.farmland.org.