A green field, blue sky, and bale of hay in the background.
February 22, 2023
Albany, NY

New York State Agriculture Commissioner Announces Applications Being Accepted for 2023 AEM Leopold Conservation Award

New York State Agriculture Commissioner Announces Applications Being Accepted for 2023 AEM Leopold Conservation Award

New York State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball today announced applications are being accepted for New York State’s 2023 Agricultural Environmental Management (AEM) Leopold Conservation Award. Presented in partnership with the Sand County Foundation, the annual award honors a farm and its nominating Soil and Water Conservation District for extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation. In New York, the $10,000 award is presented in partnership with national sponsor American Farmland Trust, and state partner Cornell Cooperative Extension.  

Commissioner Ball said, “The distinguished New York AEM-Leopold Conservation award is a great way to honor our state’s farmers who work hard to protect our environment and combat climate change; preserve soil health and water quality; and leave the land better than they found it. I thank the Sand County Foundation and all of our partners for their collaboration in presenting this award, and encourage eligible farms to work with their local Soil and Water Conservation District to apply.”  

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. In his influential 1949 book, “A Sand County Almanac,” Leopold called for an ethical relationship between people and the land they own and manage. The Sand County Foundation presents the Leopold Conservation Award to private landowners in 25 states. In New York, the longstanding AEM Award joined with the Leopold Conservation Award program in 2020, most recently awarding Greenfield Farms of Skaneateles in 2022

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. Eligible candidates successfully incorporate AEM Best Management Practices into the management of the farm, assisting the landowner in meeting business and environmental goals. Applicants should demonstrate conservation leadership and outreach in the agricultural sector and be an inspiration to other landowners. 


Applications for the New York AEM Leopold Conservation Award must be received by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets by May 27, 2023. Nominations will be reviewed by an independent panel of conservation leaders. Interested candidates should contact their local county Soil and Water Conservation District. Contact information can be found at https://agriculture.ny.gov/soil-and-water/soil-water-conservation-district-offices.  

The application can be found at www.sandcountyfoundation.org/ApplyLCA

“As the 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,” said John Piotti, American Farmland Trust President and CEO. “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.” 

Kevin McAleese, Sand County Foundation President and CEO said, “Recipients of this award are examples of how Aldo Leopold’s land ethic is alive and well today. Their dedication to conservation shows how individuals can improve the health of the land while producing food and fiber.” 

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

About the 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, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, 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 

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 

Sand County Foundation 

Sand County Foundation inspires and empowers 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