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Three Finalists Selected for New York AEM-Leopold Conservation Award

ALBANY, NY – 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 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 in partnership with a variety of conservation, agricultural and forestry organizations.

In New York, Sand County Foundation presents the award with New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, American Farmland Trust and Cornell Cooperative Extension.

The finalists are:

* Hemdale Farms and Greenhouses of Seneca Castle in Ontario County: This multi-family farm promotes the economic and environmental benefits of reduced tillage, cover crops and crop rotations. Their dairy herd’s robotic milking parlor is on display for public viewing. Cabbage and other specialty vegetable crops are first grown in greenhouses.

* Honorone Farm of Canajoharie in Montgomery County: Scott and Kathie Ryan operate a dairy farm where hay is harvested in a manner to protect and benefit wildlife. 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 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 vegetables on this certified organic farm. They use a hybrid of age-old mechanical cultivation and modern technology. Crops are annually rotated to aid pest management, and the use of cover crops suppresses weeds and increases soil fertility.

Earlier this year, New York 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.

The annual award will be presented later this summer.

“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,” said Richard A. Ball, New York State Agriculture Commissioner. “These outstanding family farms represent the diverse nature of New York agriculture and are an inspiration to other landowners. Their dedications 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.”

“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,” said Dale Stein, New York State Soil and Water Conservation District Chair. “New York’s farms are leaders in environmental stewardship and the finalists for the AEM- Leopold Conservation Award help us shine the spotlight on their efforts.”

“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,” said Kevin McAleese, Sand County Foundation President and Chief Executive Officer.

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

For more information on the award, visit

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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).


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.

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