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Three Finalists Selected for New York AEM-Leopold Conservation Award

Three finalists have been selected for New York’s Agricultural Environmental Management (AEM)-Leopold Conservation Award. Last year, New York’s longstanding AEM Award joined forces with the nationally recognized Leopold Conservation Award® program to honor one farm, and its nominating Soil and Water Conservation District, for its outstanding efforts to promote and protect the environment through the preservation of soil and water quality while helping to ensure farm viability for future generations.

New York State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, “Congratulations to our three finalists in 2021, who are shining the spotlight on the environmental Best Management Practices (BMP) that are taking place on farms across the State every day. These family farms have long been dedicated to conservation practices that protect our precious natural resources, such as our land and our water, on their own farms and in their communities. I thank them for their leadership in this area; they are an inspiration to other landowners.”

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.”

Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the Leopold Conservation Award (LCA) recognizes farmers, ranchers, and forestland owners who inspire others with their dedication to land, water, and wildlife habitat management on working land. The award is presented to landowners in 22 states.

The finalists for the 2021 AEM-Leopold Conservation Award are:

  • Greenfield Farms, LLC of Skaneateles in Onondaga County: The Greenfields are fourth-generation farmers growing 1,400 acres of corn, soybeans, hay, wheat, and oats. Located in the Skaneateles and Owasco Lake watersheds, the farm has adopted no-till and cover crop conservation practices to reduce erosion and build soil health. The Greenfields volunteered to be part of AEM’s Whole Farm Plan process in 1994. They use variable rate technology to apply just the right amount of lime and fertilizers required to grow crops.
  • 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.
  • Table Rock Farm of Castile in Wyoming County: Meghan Hauser and Maureen De Gloyer milk 1,250 dairy cows and grow 1,800 acres of corn, hay, and peas. Table Rock Farm is a long-time participant in many research studies that improve soil health and encourage conservation, including a three-year cover crop study with American Farmland Trust. Since 2003, the farm has progressed through all the tiers of the AEM program. The dairy developed an innovative manure storage system that destroys methane, a greenhouse gas.

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, the New York State Agribusiness Association, and USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

New York State Soil and Water Conservation District Chair Dale Stein said,“Congratulations to these three deserving farms and their Soil and Water Conservation Districts for this recognition as finalists for this distinguished award. Our farms and districts work hard every day to ensure that they are not only providing their communities with the food they need, but also that they are doing so in a way that is protective of our environment. From using cover crops to improve soil health to investing in innovative manure storage systems to combat greenhouse gases, New York’s farms are leaders in environmental stewardship. The AEM-Leopold Conservation Award demonstrates what is possible when we work together to improve practices and take care of our natural resources.”

John Piotti, American Farmland Trust President and Chief Executive Officer said, “As the national sponsor for Sand County Foundation’s Leopold Conservation Award, American Farmland Trust celebrates the hard work and dedication of the New York award finalists. 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.”

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.

The first recipient of the New York AEM-Leopold Conservation Award was Sang Lee Farms of Peconic in Suffolk County in 2020.

For more information on the award, visit


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).


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 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.


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.