Website Helps Landowners Lease Farms Wisely to Promote Soil Health, Water Quality

800 450 Stroud Water Research Center is a free grant-supported resource helping landowners grow better relationships with tenant farmers that incentivize long-term investments on land that also address broader environmental impacts.

Nearly 40% of the 911 million acres of farmland in the contiguous 48 states are rented, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service. And because agriculture is a leading contributor to water pollution, the opportunity for landowners to partner with tenant farmers to promote healthy soils and improve water quality is therefore great. But that opportunity is often missed.

As Sarah Everhart, a senior legal specialist with the University of Maryland Agriculture Law Education Initiative, explains, “Conservation practices are less prevalent on leased acres. When tenants don’t have a formal lease or maybe they have only a short-term lease, they don’t have the security or the incentive to invest in conservation practices that take time to yield returns.”

Enter Designed specifically for landowners, the new website provides free educational resources and planning tools to create better landowner–tenant relationships that incentivize long-term results for the land they love.

In Willow Street, Pennsylvania, Jeremy Weaver of Team Ag, a Stroud Center partner on watershed restoration efforts, discusses farming practices with landowner and farmer Jeff Frey, who also sits on the board of the Pennsylvania No-Till Alliance, another Stroud Center partner.

Among the resources is a series of webinars supported by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and Stroud™ Water Research Center. Hosted by Everhart, along with Steve Groff of Cover Crop Coaching, these webinars cover key topics related to land ownership, leasing, and long-term soil health.

Lamonte Garber, watershed restoration coordinator at the Stroud Center, says, “There is a direct link between soil health and the long-term viability of farmland. Farming methods that promote soil health can enhance production, reduce water consumption and soil erosion, and benefit the surrounding community by improving water quality in nearby streams and rivers.”

In some cases, landowners can even take advantage of financial incentives. “When a landowner signs up for more information on the website, we can connect them with the agencies and grant programs available,” Garber says. 

Connecting farmers to such resources is something the Stroud Center’s Robin L. Vannote Watershed Restoration Program has been doing for years throughout the mid-Atlantic region with particular emphasis on the Chesapeake Bay. With the launch of the new website, Garber hopes the nonprofit’s impact on farm management and water quality will grow across the nation.

“The goal,” says Garber, “is for landowners to be able to rent confidently and grow a legacy of farm stewardship and environmental health.”

New resources will continue to be added to the website, including another webinar on June 30 hosted by Everhart, Groff, and the Stroud Center’s soil health coordinator, Lisa Blazure: Your Land and Legacy: Resources for Agricultural Landowners.

Landowner Help is a service of Stroud Water Research Center, the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program, and the University of Maryland Agriculture Law Education Initiative.

Media Contact:
Diane Huskinson