A woman holding a bunch of radishes in the garden.
June 23, 2020
Albany, NY

Three Finalists Selected for New York AEM-Leopold Conservation Award

Three Finalists Selected for New York AEM-Leopold Conservation Award

Three finalists have been selected for New York’s inaugural AEM-Leopold Conservation Award.

For the first time, New York’s longstanding Agricultural Environmental Management (AEM) Award has joined forces with the nationally recognized Leopold Conservation Award® program.

Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the Leopold Conservation Award (LCA) recognizes farmers, foresters and other landowners across the U.S. who inspire others with their dedication to land, water, and wildlife habitat management on working land. The award is presented to landowners in 21 states.

Awarded in partnership with the Department of Agriculture and Markets, the AEM-LCA award honors a farm and its nominating Soil and Water Conservation District, for their efforts to promote and protect the environment through the preservation of soil and water quality while helping to ensure farm viability for future generations. 

The finalists are:

  • Hemdale Farms and Greenhouses of Seneca Castle in Ontario County: This diverse multi-family farm features a 1,300-cow dairy, a 70,000 square foot greenhouse operation and 3,000 acres of cropland that produces feed for the dairy along with cabbage and various specialty vegetable crops. The farm has adopted countless Best Management Practices (BMPs) using the AEM framework to preserve its land and build soil health, including implementing a robust cover crop and reduced tillage program.  
  • Honorone Farm of Canajoharie in Montgomery County: Scott and Kathie Ryan and their son Justin, operate a 90-cow dairy farm where they are committed to voluntary implementation of conservation BMP systems utilizing the AEM program. The farm’s use of cover crops, reduced tillage practices, and buffer areas improve soil health, reduce erosion, and protect water quality. Cattle are rotationally grazed on pastures with grasses specifically selected to retain soil and provide higher quality feed.
  • Sang Lee Farms of Peconic in Suffolk County: Fred and Karen Lee and their son William grow more than 100 varieties of specialty fruit and vegetables on this 97-acre certified organic farm. An early adopter of the AEM program, Sang Lee Farms uses modern technology and practices, including annual crop rotation to aid pest management and inter-seeding of cover crops to suppress weeds, increase soil fertility, and to protect and conserve water resources.

Earlier this year, New York State Soil and Water Conservation Districts were encouraged to identify and nominate the best examples of conservation success in their district. Applications were reviewed by an independent panel of agricultural and conservation leaders.

Sand County Foundation, a national nonprofit conservation organization, will present the $10,000 cash award with the support of New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, American Farmland Trust, Cornell Cooperative Extension, The Ida and Robert Gordon Family Foundation, Farm Credit East, New York State Agribusiness Association, and other sponsors.

New York State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, We are honored to host this most distinguished award recognizing farms and supporting Conservation Districts dedicated to the implementation of sound land management practices.  Congratulations to our three finalists. These outstanding family farms represent the diverse nature of New York agriculture and are an inspiration to other landowners. Their dedication and leadership in the implementation of conservation practices not only help provide economic and environmental benefits to their farm but also to the communities in which they farm, protecting the valuable land and water resources of New York State.”  

New York State Soil and Water Conservation District Chair Dale Stein said,

“Congratulations to our farms and to our districts for this recognition. These deserving farms and districts have exemplified extraordinary work in caring for our land and water and for our communities, using AEM best management practice to ensure the protection of our natural resources.  New York’s farms are leaders in environmental stewardship and the finalists of the AEM-Leopold Conservation Award help us shine the spotlight on their efforts.”

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.”

The annual award will be presented later this summer. The farm honored will also be featured in a video promoting their award-winning conservation practices.

For more information on the award, visit www.leopoldconservationaward.org.


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 York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin, and in New England (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont). www.leopoldconservationaward.org


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.


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