Which Ecosystem Services Fit Your Farm?

It can be tricky to understand which conservation practices or ecosystem services would work best on a farmer’s land: grazing, cover crops, agroforestry, adding windmills or solar panels, a mix of these and more? And then from there, how does one get the upfront capital to implement these practices or understand how exactly they’ll be paid for their efforts. Plus, altering the way a farm has operated—sometimes for generations—is often not a quick, seamless decision or execution. So where does a farmer interested in ecosystem services even start? A great place to begin is by learning why conservation practices are so beneficial in the first place—both how they improve the long-term health of the farm, surrounding ecosystems and nearby communities and how they can produce cost savings. We cover a lot of this in Edible-Alpha® podcast #100, which presents our recent “Enhancing Farm Revenues with Conservation Practices & Ecosystem Services” webinar featuring FFI founder Tera Johnson, now of Iroquois Valley Farmland REIT. Next, farmers should gain a keen understanding of their land to see which types of practices would even be possible to implement. Inventory the natural and material assets, such as croplands, grasslands, water features, forests, structures and equipment. Zoning maps and Google Earth can help farmers get a more accurate lay of the land. Then comes thinking about goals for the farm and crafting a plan. Here’s where farmers may want to enlist some help from a conservation specialist, either from the USDA, the local conservation district or an independent consultancy. Another key player is the NRCS which houses programs like EQIP (Environmental Quality Incentive Program) These experts can help assess the options and determine which practices both make sense for the farm and are potential candidates for compensation. FFI is also a great resource. We can help farmers navigate their options and connect with the right technical assistance, so please don’t hesitate to reach out!

We brought Tera back to the podcast! Tune in to hear Andy’s discussion with FFI’s founder, now CEO of Iroquois Valley Farmland REIT, to learn about the various conservation practices and ecosystem services available to farmers. They talk through the benefits, both ecological and financial, of different programs and how compensation works. This podcast provides excellent information for any farmer interested in helping the environment while helping their bottom line.

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