Enrollment Open for Conservation Mentorships for Underserved Farmers & Ranchers
February 24, 2021
A new mentorship program is linking historically underserved farmers and ranchers with award-winning conservationists.
“There’s often a steep learning curve when it comes to adopting conservation practices in agriculture,” said Dr. Heidi Peterson, Sand County Foundation’s Vice President of Agricultural Research and Conservation. “Now historically underserved farmers and ranchers have access to a reliable network of conservation mentors.”
Since 2003, the Sand County Foundation’s Leopold Conservation Award has recognized nearly 150 farmers, ranchers and forestland owners nationwide for their efforts to improve soil health, water quality and wildlife habitat. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service awarded Sand County Foundation a Conservation Collaboration Grant to support this opportunity to empower award recipients as mentors.
“One of the unique features of this mentorship is that the mentors have a wealth of knowledge navigating USDA conservation programs and implementing an array of practices, which they are eager to share,” Peterson said. “For some individuals a one-on-one mentorship may be preferred, but others may like the idea of just having access to a network of experienced, conservation-minded farmers and ranchers to ask an occasional question.”
“Not only will the mentees have the flexibility to tailor the program to their personal needs, goals and time, but they will also have the opportunity to join in on virtual field days and webinars featuring conservation-topic experts,” Peterson said.
The USDA defines historically underserved farmers and ranchers as those with limited resources, and those who are beginners, military veterans, or members of a socially disadvantaged group. Research shows that historically underserved farmers and ranchers are more likely to operate on environmentally-sensitive land near water bodies.
Sand County Foundation is a national non-profit that works at the intersection of agriculture and environmental improvement. For more than 50 years, Sand County Foundation has evaluated and demonstrated conservation practices with farmers, ranchers, foresters and businesses. These efforts produce clean water, healthy soil, abundant wildlife habitat and opportunities for outdoor recreation.
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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
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 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
USDA NATURAL RESOURCES CONSERVATION SERVICE (NRCS)
NRCS is a federal agency committed to helping private landowners care and make healthy choices for the land and water, while using them productively. Through voluntary incentive-based programs, the NRCS works directly with farmers, ranchers, forest owners and other land stewards to provide technical expertise and financial assistance to make conservation work on private lands. www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/site/co/home/