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Farm of the Future: Five Landowners Produce Crops, Livestock, and Ecosystem Services

Posted by Alice Appleton and Carl Lucero, USDA Office of Environmental Markets in Conservation
Jun 15, 2011

The new Farm of the Future project profiles working farms, forests, and ranches that are participating in environmental markets or receiving payments for ecosystem services. In the five case studies just released, landowners changed their management practices to provide water quality, wetlands, wildlife habitat, and carbon benefits—generating new revenue from the sale of ecosystem services to supplement traditional income.

Watson Partners Farm receives payments for reducing phosphorous runoff by cover-cropping its sugar beets as part of a trading program within a cooperative. The cover crops include the added benefit of increased sugar beet yields. Project contact: Curt Watson

Buck Island Ranch in Florida supplements its cattle sales with payments received from installed water retention measures that serve to reduce the flow of nutrients into Lake Okeechobee.  Project contact: Sarah Lynch and Gene Lollis

Big River and Salmon Creek Forests are managed sustainably to produce timber and carbon offsets while protecting wildlife habitat and water quality and creating jobs in local, rural communities.  Project contact: Ann Barrett

Sacramento River Ranch sells wetlands and habitat mitigation credits to local developers in addition to producing food on 2,600 acres of cropland and orchards.  Project contact: Wayne White and Dominic Bruno

Mudford Farm maintains corn, soybean, and wheat production while restoring wetlands and wildlife habitat on marginal land for the purpose of generating hunting permits, wetland mitigation credits, and water quality credits.  Project contact: Richard Pritzlaff

The Farm of the Future case studies highlight lessons from these experiences in market-based conservation.

  • Public programs can jumpstart innovation. Many market-based conservation initiatives depend on dedicated “seed funding” from state, local, and Federal partners to help cover program development and landscape modification costs.
  • Having a clear and reliable source of demand is important to landowners. In many cases regulations such as the Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, and Endangered Species Act drives demand.
  • All five cases achieved success through partnerships.
  • Organizations such as cooperatives can aggregate landowner efforts and help bring the delivery of ecosystem services to scale.

Farm of the Future was produced by EcoAgriculture Partners with support from USDA’s Office of Environmental Markets. Funding was provided through a cooperative agreement with the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

For information on other OEM activities, visit the OEM website or contact Carl Lucero, OEM, USDA, 202-401-0531,

Category/Topic: Conservation