Reducing Pollution at its Source
Amish farmers in rural Lancaster County, well-known for their traditional way of life, face contemporary environmental challenges. Their region of south central Pennsylvania is one of three “hot spots” in the Chesapeake Bay watershed where polluted runoff from farms drains into local streams and helps create dead zones in the Bay.
For 23 years, Lancaster Farmland Trust has worked with Amish families to permanently protect their lands. The Trust, a NFWF grantee since 2008, has helped to preserve more than 360 farms and a unique way of life. “Younger farmers want to find out how to increase production, improve the health of their dairy cattle and protect the health of their families,” explains executive director Karen Martynick.“Our long-term goal is to assist farmers with Best Management Practices — to bring everybody into compliance for clean streams, waterways and the Chesapeake Bay.”
- 208,448 acres of chesapeake farmland where best management practices are implemented
- 6.3 million pounds of nitrogen pollution removed from agricultural runoff entering the chesapeake bay annually
- 10% progress toward agricultural nitrogen reduction goal achieved through chesapeake bay stewardship fund grants
Restoring the Chesapeake requires reducing pollution in tributaries throughout the watershed. In 2010, the Trust received NFWF funding for a project to help Amish families in the Mill Creek watershed install fencing along streambanks on their properties and build livestock crossings. Both are proven measures that keep cattle and manure out of local creeks, but can be too expensive for farmers to adopt. “The reason they’re not doing it is because they don’t have the money. Farmers want to be good stewards, but the margins are so slim they don’t have the financial resources to make improvements,” Martynick explains.
Utilizing its unique relationship with farm owners, the Amish community and the Millcreek Preservation Association, Lancaster Farmland Trust is organizing the installation of nearly five miles of streambank fencing and 10 livestock crossings on seven local farms. “With NFWF’s help, we can offer assistance to Amish farmers who won’t work with government programs,” says Martynick. “Mill Creek has lots of preserved farms that have stream frontage. And as we make people aware of the benefits of installing fencing, we’re improving the water quality.”
Corporate partner Altria, which helped to fund four NFWF projects in the mid-Atlantic in 2010, provided support for the streambank fencing undertaking, as well as other urban, forest and wetland conservation efforts throughout the Chesapeake region.
“When we looked at the challenge of protecting and also being good stewards of Lancaster farmlands, we knew we had a responsibility to work with the Amish,” says Martynick. “We applied for the NFWF grant with one goal: to help improve conservation on their lands.” But improved water quality will benefit local trout populations as well, and contribute to the larger effort to bring the Chesapeake Bay back to life.