Profitable Stewardship Practices

It is beyond the scope of this lesson to teach the details of good land management practices. Many practices blend art and science: a farmer with extensive experience will “feel” when it’s the right time to apply the right tool in just the right way to achieve the desired results. This type of wisdom comes only after years of hands-on production experience. Here we will just try to introduce you to some of the practices used by farmers to steward the resources on which their livelihood rests.

Your specific land management choices will always be a result of your unique goals and situation. There is no one solution for every operation and piece of land. But the following slideshow from Agriculture Environmental Management (AEM) entitled “Conservation Choices” offers some very general types of conservation practices you can implement. Many of these may not be relevant or appropriate for your piece of land or your scale of operation, but they present a starting point for thinking about the range of options available to you: www.nys-soilandwater.org/aem/AEMPresent2/sld001.htm

The principles of good land management remain the same across enterprises, but different practices will be relevant to different types of farms. See the Resources section to find more information on the following practices mentioned, or contact your local Extension office to learn about the specific practice appropriate for your situation:

1. Cropland (vegetables, fruit, field crops):

  • Use cover crops to add organic matter and nutrients to the soil.
  • Consider mulching with straw or living ground covers to keep soil as covered as possible
  • Reduce soil tillage to minimize compaction, destruction of the soil’s structure, and exposed bare soil

2. Dairy/Livestock

  • Establish permanent perimeter fencing and then use light, portable fencing to move livestock frequently. This is sometimes called Rotational or Management Intensive Grazing, and is a proven method for increasing the productivity of both animals and land in an ecologically sound way.
  • Fence livestock out of waterways. There are several grant and NRCS (Natural Resource Conservation Service) cost-share programs to help fund this. Protects water quality and aquatic habitats for wildlife.
  • Don’t apply manure to frozen ground. Record and monitor manure applications at any time of year to be sure you are not exceeding what the plants and land can absorb

3. Forest land

  • Cut trees only after establishing a Forest Management Plan. Avoid “high-grading,” i.e. cutting out all the most desirable trees.
  • Allow dead trees to remain in place to provide habitat and cycle nutrients through decomposition back into the soil.

Find resources to learn more about implementing these practices>>

In this section:

Need Small Farms Info?

Visit our sister Small Farms Programsite, the Cornell Small Farms Program