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American Farmland Trust Releases First-Ever Non-Operating Landowner Survey Results – California Fact Sheet

Revealing significant opportunity for increased conservation practices on rented land to improve water quality and soil health  

SACRAMENTO, CA — Today, American Farmland Trust , the organization behind the national movement  No Farms No Food ® ,   released fact sheets summarizing results from its Non-Operating Landowners, or NOLs, Survey that surveyed individually or partnership-owned lands, not institutions or trusts, for California. The  results are promising, demonstrating that landowners care about their land and are keenly interested in stewarding their land well — keeping it in farming and altering lease terms to support conservation.  

A full report will be released this winter drawing conclusions across all the surveyed states to inform a national conservation agenda.  

“We began this research in 2018 to better understand attitudes related to conservation practices and how to better serve farmland and ranchland owners who do not farm their land  but rent it to operators. Thirty-nine percent of farmland in the U.S. is rented,  yet in some  CA  counties that number is  more than 6 0%,  coupled with some of the highest rental rates in the country for irrigated and non-irrigated farmland.  Therefore, non-operating landowners are an important stakeholder for implementation of conservation and climate resilient practices.  Further,  close to 50% of farmland in the U.S. is  owned by women ,” said Gabrielle Roesch-McNally, AFT Women for the Land director.   

Anecdotally, AFT has found that often there is a perception that landowners don’t want or do not support conservation practices on their rented ground. Thankfully, the research reveals this gap does not necessarily exist. If farmers and landowners start talking and are provided with the right resources, AFT, policymakers, natural resource agencies and conservation groups can better support the implementation of conservation practices on rented lands.   

Specifically, the results from California are telling in how the needle can begin to move on conservation. In California,   

  • The farmer is the most trusted source for conservation information followed  by Resource  Conservation Districts and State University Extensions.  
  • Landowners are receptive to changing the terms of their lease to support their farmers in experimenting with more conservation on their land.   
  • The desire for landowners to keep the land in farming reveals the symbolic importance of the land, an important entry point for conversations.  
  • Targeting the NOLS audience with educational materials can improve their awareness of and willingness to support conservation and partnership with farmers to meet larger goals for their land and its legacy.

In other words, if you are a farmer who wants to try new conservation practices on land you rent, AFT’s survey is good news. Your landowner is probably supportive, and s/he trusts your judgment as a farming expert. But they need to hear from you!  

AFT is building of a  resource bank   fact sheets and other resources on  the Farmland Information Center  for NOLS and farmers who rent land.  

AFT’s California office staff is available to answer questions and assist all concerned, contact   Kara Heckert, E:   ● P:  (916) 448-1064  



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 our  No Farms, No Food  message. Since our founding in 1980, AFT has helped permanently protect over 6.5 million acres of agricultural lands, advanced environmentally-sound farming practices on a half million additional acres and supported thousands of farm families.     

About the Author
Gabrielle Roesch-McNally, PhD

Women for the Land Director

Read Bio

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