Your role as a farmer and land manager brings both great opportunity and great responsibility. Whether you manage 2 acres or 2,000, you have the opportunity to improve the ecological health of your land, but also the responsibility to understand how your decisions affect the well-being of the soil, water, air, plants, and animals. By factoring environmental considerations (and their financial implications) into your business plan now, you can avoid more costly mitigation later. Since your farming business will be based on the land, it is to your benefit to maintain or enhance the health of the ecosystem you manage. Good environmental management is not just a nice idea; it ultimately increases your profitability and the longevity of your operation.
Good land management is a complex and vast topic that is best learned through experience. Here we present a very basic introduction to get you started. There are many programs available to help you keep learning and implement good practices. Under the Agriculture Environmental Management (AEM) Program, NYS spent $34,600,000 over the last five years for conservation projects on farms to protect water quality and other natural resources. New York farmers have invested nearly $12,800,000 over the last 5 years to implement conservation projects on their farms.
The first lesson in this unit will help you understand what ecosystem health indicators to look for, while the second lesson offers some basic practices that will help you be a good steward.