The Sand County Foundation seeks to inspire and empower agricultural landowners and land managers to embrace conservation opportunities. SCF was awarded $342,700 in 2022 for its project “Amplifying the Reach and Impact of the Land Ethic Mentorship for Historically Underserved Farmers and Ranchers.
Sand County Foundation (SCF), a nonprofit, seeks to inspire and empower agricultural landowners and land managers to embrace conservation opportunities. SCF was awarded $342,700 in 2022 for its project “Amplifying the Reach and Impact of the Land Ethic Mentorship for Historically Underserved Farmers and Ranchers”, expanding on the work of a 2020 Conservation Collaboration agreement.
The Foundation shapes its work in the spirit of Aldo Leopold’s land ethic, a personal responsibility to care for natural resources. SCF’s Land Ethic Mentorship program is designed to serve historically underserved (socially disadvantaged, beginning, limited resource, and veteran) farmers and ranchers as they navigate state and federal programs that can support their conservation and production goals. Mentors involved in the program come from SCF’s national network of farmers and ranchers who have received the Leopold Conservation Award, which recognizes agricultural land managers for achievement in conservation. Mentors support their mentees as they adopt conservation and agricultural practices to balance farm productivity, ecosystem health, and community well-being.
Participant Soonnyoung Min learned of the program in 2021. Soonnyoung grew up on a small farm in South Korea. When she and her husband bought a 100-acre farm in Kentucky, they envisioned raising food for their six children, but they didn’t know where to begin. The Land Ethic Mentorship program connected her with Jon Bednarski, the 2013 Kentucky Leopold Conservation award recipient. As someone who began a farm from scratch, he knew exactly what Soonnyoung was getting into.
When Soonnyoung mentioned that she was concerned about erosion along the stream that ran through their farm, Jon suggested she look into the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Following his advice, Soonnyoung visited her local USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) office and worked with the agency to develop a conservation plan for the property. She received EQIP funds to plant trees along the streambed and continues to implement conservation practices that reflect her family’s vision for the land.