Our passions emerge from our experiences. They reflect our values and drive our actions each and every day.
At American Farmland Trust, our work is rooted in a deep connection to farmland and a shared vision to save the land that sustains us. We want to hear from you about why you share this same passion. What drives you to care about protecting farmland? How do your experiences shape a vision of a viable future for farms and ranches? Why do you work to help safeguard America’s land and water resources?
Here are some anecdotes from our staff about their own personal passions for farms, farmland and the environment. Please join us in sharing your unique stories by commenting in the “Leave a Reply” box below.
Jon on his farm in Illinois
After growing up on a farm in Illinois, my passion stems from a deep, personal understanding of the wonders and tribulations of the life and business of farming. I gained an appreciation for land and animals and the unique care required by both. From the time I was a young boy, I was amazed by the terrific regenerative capacity of farms and farmland as they evolve and grow to be renewed each spring. The land, I learned, was irreplaceable in this process. When I am home in Illinois, I still marvel at how good-quality soil and critical rainfall can come together at just the right time and place to produce food and so many other things we need. I cringe to remember years when the power of Mother Nature brought its challenges. Still, there is nothing more fascinating to watch than when everything comes together for an ideal growing season and harvest. I’m fortunate to still be learning from the rewarding and unpredictable life on a farm. ~ Jon Scholl, President, American Farmland Trust
Kitty Smith, American Farmland Trust
I had an idyllic childhood in what was then a rural area outside of Chicago. I didn’t grow up on a farm but I lived in a farm house across the road from a vast, highly diversified crop and livestock farm. My mother would drive up the farm’s big lane on a weekly basis to buy fresh eggs, a side quarter of a hog, or delicious jams and jellies. We kids scattered the chickens and cooed over any baby animal on-site. When I was 12, we moved to a Baltimore suburb and, though farms were no longer in my daily view, I brought with me an appreciation for farmland. Through a research project in high school, I learned about early smart growth policies in Baltimore County and about planning to preserve open space and farmland. When I returned to Illinois some years later, a strip mall and residential development complex had replaced the wonderful farmland across from the road from my old house. Baltimore County, on the other hand, has maintained its plan which helped to preserve farmland, and the valleys are as beautiful now as they were when the plan was adopted in the late 1960s. These experiences have helped to guide my belief that farming and development can go hand-in-hand if, through good public policy, the land best suited to farmland is designated for that use. ~ Kitty Smith, Vice President of Programs & Chief Economist, American Farmland Trust
Photo Courtesty of Sinkland Farms
Shortly after college graduation, my husband and I bought our dairy farm and, on New Year’s Day 32 years ago,Sinkland Farms was founded. My passion for the land grew from my childhood spent on my own family’s farm. Farming has simply been my way of life. As we expanded the farm from dairy production to also include harvest festivals and school field trips, our family was able to share with the public the opportunity to connect with the land and learn where food comes from. Whether at the farm or in the American Farmland Trust offices, I am fortunate to be able to share my passion for farming each and every day. ~Susan Sink, Vice President of Development and External Relations, American Farmland Trust
Bob Wagner, American Farmland Trust
Growing up on Long Island in New York—a place well-known for its crowded landscape and congested roads but also home to the first publically funded farmland protection program in the country—my connection to the protection of farmland, or rather the loss of farmland, is very personal. My parents bought a house lot to build the home I grew up in from a farmer who, like many farmers near to retirement and apparently without a family member interested in keeping the farm, began selling off the least productive portions of his farm. So our house was in what those of us on the street that emerged from the farm called “the woods.” When I was very young, my cousins and I could still go visit the farmer and pet his barnyard animals. But eventually, he sold all the lots in the woods and began to sell lots in what we all called “the fields,” one of which had become the neighborhood sandlot baseball field. Gradually, the farm fields too became house lots until only one remained – our sandlot diamond. For a little while the baseball field was still there for us to play on, until finally it too became a house. The farm was gone and so was what had become essentially a local park. This childhood experience stuck with me and contributed to my decision to pursue a degree in land use planning and eventually to become involved in helping farmers and communities develop farmland protection and farm viability programs. ~ Bob Wagner, Senior Policy and Program Advisor, American Farmland Trust
Three generations of the Hunter family.
My passion for farms started at my grandpa’s side. Nothing made an eight-year-old boy feel like a man as much as carrying a feed bucket, riding in the bed of a truck, or opening a gate for grandpa. Even getting up early was fun when it meant you got to go out to feed the horses or check the cows. As the years passed, my summertime “work camp” jobs expanded to tougher assignments—fixing fence, stacking square bales and getting cows ready for the sale barn—but that work just made grandma’s noon dinner taste better. When grandpa passed on, so did the farm, skipping a generation to my oldest cousin. Now my parents have a new farm, a cow-calf grazing operation where my own kids will get to learn the beautiful discipline of closely tending a cow herd, acres of fields and forests, and a sprawling infrastructure of fences, gates and waterers. Their grandma and grandpa will teach them where the blackcap berries grow in the summer, how to know when the garden tomatoes are ripe, and which pasture species the cows eat first when they’re moved to a new paddock. Hopefully my kids, like me, will fall in love with both the ecological complexities and the simple human joys of growing food on the land, extending my family’s farming legacy down another generation. ~ Mitch Hunter, Federal Policy Manager: Conservation, American Farmland Trust
Preparing to show at the Washington County Fair in New York.
My passion for farmland is rooted in family history. Since 1856, the Goodman family has owned and operated a dairy farm in upstate New York. Growing up around the farm has meant family is always nearby, oftentimes gathered around the table together for a meal or taking a break from work in the field to show cows at the county fair. Each generation has faced its challenges, having to adjust and evolve in order to endure. Sadly, it has been during my lifetime that the land and its history has started to slip away as my family struggles with what to do when the interest to stay home and carry on the business is lacking from my generation. With this uncertain future, we sold some land to developers who built an elite soccer camp and each day I work, at American Farmland Trust and with family members, in hopes that more productive land does not meet the same fate. I learned so much growing up at Goodmanor Farm—the value of hard work, the importance of taking care of land and water, the pricelessness of family. Though its form may change shape, I hope the land can continue to teach these lessons for generations to come, perhaps for my own children. ~Erica Goodman, Communications Associate, American Farmland Trust