New grant program funds trailblazing farmer
Source: American Farmland Trust
Sarah J. Morton of Ruckersville, Virginia has been a champion for the agricultural industry since she was seven years old, when she raised swine in 4-H. Since then, her impressive professional agricultural journey has focused on equity, access, agricultural sustainability, and local food sovereignty.
This winter, Sarah was awarded $20,000 from American Farmland Trust (AFT)’s Women for the Land pilot transformational grants program, which assists women farmers and ranchers in successfully launching, growing, and sustaining farms in the face of forces impacting food and agricultural systems. Grants are intended to leverage existing resources to help a farmer 1) improve farm viability, 2) access, transfer, or permanently protect farmland, or 3) adopt regenerative farming practices and increase resilience to climate change.
Cattle Run Farm is a third-generation family, Black and veteran-owned and operated farm providing fresh and local foods to families and communities. It also serves as a learning lab for veterans with disabilities, youth, families, and aspiring agrarians. They partner with the Minority Veteran Farmers of the Piedmont to market locally sourced and grown foods to food banks, local markets, churches, and food hubs across the region, and work to ensure that customers know the origin of their food and build relationships with local farmers.
Sarah already implements important land stewardship practices, including fencing off waterways to help protect the Chesapeake Bay and fostering land restoration using swine, chicken tractors, pasture rotation, manure, and composting. The farm will use the grant from AFT to further these efforts and implement a sustainable livestock production system. A sustainable livestock system contributes to food security and environmental stewardship by using uncultivable land for food production and is effective for carbon sequestration to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming.
“With increasing global awareness about climate change and studies indicating that livestock is one of the contributors to greenhouse gases, environmental degradation, and loss of biodiversity, various concerted efforts have been aimed at developing and ensuring the sustainability of livestock systems that deliver economic and ecosystems services without compromising the future integrity, health, and welfare of the environment, humans, and animals. We would like to use the system to educate producers, consumers, and environmentalists on considerably effective mixed farming systems.” - Sarah J. Morton.
Sarah is an amazing example of a powerhouse of a woman producer pointing the way for other women who are doing regenerative farming and ranching. I am so excited that Sarah is our pilot recipient as I know the award will amplify the good work she is already doing. My hope is this fund grows to support more women like her in the region.
"Shifting the way we grow our food to regenerative methods is essential to solving the climate crisis, which is why we are so excited to support American Farmlands Trust’s Women for the Land Initiative. Getting women farmers, the support they need to transform our agricultural systems will ensure a vibrant, just future for generations to come.” - Justin Winters, Daughters for Earth Leadership & Executive Director at One Earth
AFT’s Women for the Land transformational grants program hopes to offer additional grants at the end of 2023 to support more pioneering women in agriculture like Sarah. We are deeply grateful for the financial support of One Earth Philanthropy and Daughters for Earth for making this funding opportunity possible.