- Farm Business Management: business planning, conservation easements
- Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems, sustainability measures
The objective of this project was to produce and distribute a ½ hour video that educates farmers and local communities about what conservation easements are and how they work. We partnered with two land trusts (Red Hills Conservation Program and Conservation Trust for Florida) and two farmers to explore how conservation easements could be implemented on working lands. We filmed participants in Boston, GA and Evinston, FL. The Conservation Easement video has been completed and can be seen on the web (http://livinggreen.ifas.ufl.edu). The program is currently being aired in over 40 TV markets in the Southeast and will be broadcasted nationally through the National Educational Telecommunications Association. DVDs of the show are being distributed by Land Trust Alliance, by the Red Hills Conservation Program, and by the Conservation Trust for Florida.
Urban areas are rapidly expanding in North America and worldwide; the estimated conversion rate of lands to urban use exceeds population growth by a factor of six to ten. As noted by the Rural and Family Lands Protection Act, a common cause of urban conversion is due to increased value of rural land located near urban land. Diminished returns on farm products, development pressure, and high property taxes leave many farmers with little choice but to sell their land. Collectively, the loss of rural areas is significant and can adversely affect our natural resources. Communities throughout the U.S are exploring ways to preserve the natural integrity of their rural areas by creating prosperous rural communities.
One tool that can be used by communities and farmers is a conservation easement. Essentially, a conservation easement is a legal agreement between a farmer and a land trust, government agency, or other entity that maintains land in agricultural and/or natural uses to protect the owner’s agricultural and/or conservation interests. Conservation easements offer great flexibility. Each conservation easement is unique and typically customized in consultations between the farmer and a partner organization. It is a legal agreement designed to consider both the farmer’s needs and the conservation objectives. For example, conservation easements can be designed to allow continued farming or ranching activities, hunting, and other recreational uses. An easement might apply to just a portion of the property. In most cases, conservation easements are perpetual, so the any land use restrictions remain if the land is sold or passed on to heirs. In return for donating an easement, a farmer can receive significant tax savings; as another option, the landowner can sell the development rights to a land trust for cash up front.
The objective of this project was to produce and distribute a ½ hour video that educates farmers and local communities about what conservation easements are and how they work. The video is targeted to a general audience and will also be used in workshops for private landowners.