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New York State Agriculture Commissioner Announces Applications Being Accepted for 2024 AEM-Leopold Conservation Award

New York State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball today announced applications are being accepted for New York State’s fifth annual Agricultural Environmental Management (AEM) Leopold Conservation Award. Presented in partnership with Sand County Foundation, the award honors a farm and its nominating Soil and Water Conservation District for extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation. In New York, the $10,000 award is presented in partnership with national sponsor American Farmland Trust, and state partner Cornell Cooperative Extension.

Commissioner Ball said, “Many of our New York farming families have long been dedicated to best practices that protect our natural resources and conserve our environment, both on their farms and in their communities. I encourage eligible farms to work with their local Soil and Water Conservation District to apply for the AEM-Leopold Conservation award so their efforts can be recognized and celebrated.”

Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the award recognizes farmers who inspire others with their dedication to land, water, and wildlife habitat management on private, working land. In his influential 1949 book, “A Sand County Almanac,” Leopold called for an ethical relationship between people and the land they own and manage.

Sand County Foundation presents the Leopold Conservation Award to farmers in 27 states. In New York, the longstanding AEM Award joined with the Leopold Conservation Award program in 2020, most recently awarding Dygert Farms and the Montgomery County Soil and Water Conservation District in 2023.

Applications for the New York AEM-Leopold Conservation Award are now being accepted, with county Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs) applying on behalf of farms. Eligible candidates successfully incorporate AEM best management practices into the management of their farm, assisting the farmer in meeting business and environmental goals. Applicants should demonstrate conservation leadership and outreach in the agricultural sector and be an inspiration to other farmers. Applications must be received by May 15, 2024.

Nominations will be reviewed by an independent panel of conservation leaders. Interested candidates should contact their local county Soil and Water Conservation District. Contact information can be found at

The application can be found at

“As a national sponsor for Sand County Foundation’s Leopold Conservation Award, American Farmland Trust celebrates the hard work and dedication of farmers, ranchers and forestland owners,” said John Piotti, American Farmland Trust President and CEO. “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.”

“Recipients of this award are examples of how Aldo Leopold’s land ethic is alive and well today. Their dedication to conservation shows how individuals can improve the health of the land while producing food and fiber,” said Kevin McAleese, Sand County Foundation President and CEO.

The AEM-Leopold Conservation Award Program in New York is made possible thanks to the generous support of American Farmland Trust, New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, Cornell Cooperative Extension, Sand County Foundation, The Ida and Robert Gordon Family Foundation, Farm Credit East, Audubon New York, McDonald’s, New York State Agribusiness Association, and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

About the 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, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin, and in New England (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont). Learn more at

New York State AEM Award 

New York State’s annual Agricultural Environmental Management Award winners are chosen from nominees submitted by county SWCDs 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.

American Farmland Trust

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 6.8 million acres of agricultural lands, advanced environmentally sound farming practices on millions of additional acres, and supported thousands of farm families.

Sand County Foundation

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.

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