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Land and Water Stewardship in New York

New York Cut Grass
New York’s farms play an important role in providing clean drinking water to urban populations. Well-managed farmland acts as a filter for drinking water supplies, protecting streams and rivers from the pollution caused by development. We work with national, state and local partners to protect the state’s farmland from poorly planned development and to help farmers keep New York’s drinking water clean.

We have also worked with our partner organizations to protect farmland and help farmers adopt environmentally sound farming practices in the New York City watershed, which includes the Catskills, and provides clean, untreated drinking water to more than 9 million people. In central New York, we have worked with farmers and communities that receive water from the Skaneateles Lake and Owasco Lake watersheds to develop and advance programs that pro-actively support water quality.

Combining the protection of farmland with environmentally sound agricultural practices keeps New York’s drinking water supplies clean and a dependable resource for future generations.

Our Work in the Field


Engaging Long Island Farmers in Land and Water Stewardship

Jennifer Halsey in a field of cover crops

American Farmland Trust, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County, and AgFlex have joined forces to support continued environmental stewardship by farmers in Suffolk County. Started in 2012 with 10 farmers growing sweet corn, these efforts aim to increase farmers’ use of a new type of fertilizer that enables an average of 20 percent reductions in nitrogen applications while maintaining healthy crop harvests.  The new Controlled-Release Nitrogen Fertilizer is designed to break down over time according to the plant’s need for nutrients. Conventional fertilizers can dissolve during heavy rains and enter local water supplies.

Learn more about American Farmland Trust’s work in Suffolk County and about the farmers making a difference.


Owasco Lake Agricultural Conservation Blueprint

Owasco Lake farm at sunsetAlmost 10 million residents of New York City and the City of Syracuse receive clean, unfiltered drinking water every day thanks in part to efforts to protect farmland and promote environmental stewardship of that land in watersheds surrounding their water supplies. These actions not only keep water clean, they annually save hundreds of millions of dollars by avoiding the costs of constructing and operating water treatment facilities.

Success in keeping water clean in these watersheds, like many others in New York, is due in part to farmers protecting their land and managing it as a natural water filter, as well as targeted investments made by government agencies in farmland conservation programs and staff to work with farmers. However, at a time of tight budgets at all levels of government, public funds and agency staff to aid farmers to protect and steward their land are under threat. Thus, practical, cost effective solutions are needed to enable farmers to pro-actively address water quality problems.

Through the development of the Owasco Lake Agricultural Conservation Blueprint, American Farmland Trust and its partners have sought such solutions that strengthen the economic viability of farming while addressing water quality concerns in Owasco Lake. The overall goal of the Owasco Lake Agricultural Conservation Blueprint is to enable farmers in the Owasco Lake watershed to pro-actively protect water quality while strengthening the region’s agricultural economy.

Download the Owasco Lake Agricultural Conservation Blueprint [PDF].


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