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Sand County Foundation to Expand Soil Health Management with Alabama, Mississippi Farmers

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has awarded Sand County Foundation a $1 million grant to empower farmers in Alabama and Mississippi with access to on-farm data to support their land management decisions toward improved climate resilience.

The project titled, “Building Soil Health and Resilient Conservation Advocates Through Collaboration and Data-sharing” is one of 11 projects the EPA selected to receive a “Farm to Farmer” grant with funding totaling more than $14 million.

Sand County Foundation, a national nonprofit organization that champions voluntary conservation on farmland, will partner with the conservation organizations across Alabama and Mississippi, and 24 farmers from Alabama and Mississippi on the three-year project. They will collect soil health samples and install CropX data-collecting soil sensors to provide farmers with information about how their farm management influences soil trafficability, temperature, nutrient runoff potential, and other climate resilience characteristics.

The effort in Alabama and Mississippi is an off-shoot of Sand County Foundation’s ongoing project in the upper Midwest with 30 collaborating farmers in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

“Farmers are seeking real-time data to guide in-season decision making,” said Dr. Heidi Peterson, Sand County Foundation’s Vice President of Agricultural Conservation and Research.

She noted that often farmers have to rely on anecdotal observations of how their management decisions are affecting a field’s soil moisture and temperature during periods of extreme precipitation.

“Sensor technology, combined with soil sampling, will allow our farmer collaborators to compare field data,” she said. “It also helps to understand how their management influences soil properties critical to climate resiliency and nutrient transport.”

The EPA’s “Farmer to Farmer” grants support the leadership of farmers in improving water quality, habitat, resilience, and peer-to-peer information exchange to benefit community and ecosystems in the Gulf of Mexico Watershed. Farmers manage millions of acres of privately held working lands within the Gulf of Mexico Watershed. Conservation management can minimize pollution, specifically the excess nitrogen and phosphorus that can enter waterbodies through runoff or soil erosion.

“EPA is proud to support the leadership of farmers and their innovative approaches to improve water quality while working to fuel and feed the world,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “EPA is committed to meaningful partnerships with farmers to advance sustainable agriculture practices while creating healthy, clean, and safe environments for all.”


The Farmer-to-Farmer grant funding is available to develop innovative practices within farming communities, measure the results of those practices, and identify how the practices will be incorporated into farming operations. Under this grant program, proposals will carry out project activities using one or more of the following methods: surveys, studies, research, investigation, experimentation, education, training, and/or demonstrations.

The Gulf of Mexico Division is a non-regulatory program of EPA founded to facilitate collaborative actions to protect, maintain, and restore the health and productivity of the Gulf of Mexico in ways consistent with the economic well-being of the region. To carry out its mission, the Gulf of Mexico Division continues to maintain and expand partnerships with state and federal agencies, federally recognized tribes, local governments and authorities, academia, regional business and industry, agricultural and environmental organizations, and individual citizens and communities.

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This project has been funded wholly or in part by the United States Environmental Protection Agency under assistance agreement 02D48223 to Sand County Foundation. The contents of this document do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Environmental Protection Agency, nor does the EPA endorse trade names or recommend the use of commercial products mentioned in this document.

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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.