In my first post we explored how the first core component of the The Integrated Strategy for Success and Sustainability: The Impact Model – identity – applies to the unique issues and challenges of land trusts engaged in working lands conservation. In this post, we will look at how the core component of constituents applies to these land trusts. Part three will consider organizational capacity
Constituents are those people who care enough the land trust and/ or its mission to take action on its behalf. These include the land trust’s audiences, donors and supporters, community members, and strategic partners.
Agriculture is a broad category that includes an immense variety of production practices, sizes, scales, business models, and resource requirements. However, the one consistent requirement for running a successful and sustainable agricultural business is a high degree of specialization. Land trusts entering agricultural working lands conservation work often need to develop new (or reinvent existing) strategic partnerships in order to access the expertise and insight needed to be successful.
For example, such a land trust might benefit from a strategic partnership with the Extension service, the Department of Agricultural Economics at their land grant university, the Farm Bureau, the Farmers Union, USDA APHIS and FSA representatives, agricultural cooperatives, direct market outlets (e.g. farmers market and specialty grocery store managers), or citizens groups like food policy councils. This is not a, “more partners is better,” approach. It’s about building a deeply-connected relationship with the right 1 or 2 strategic partners your land trust needs in order to meet its goals.
In many areas, the local food movement is bringing increased awareness and interest to farmland preservation and the important role land trusts play in a vibrant food system. The goals of your agricultural working lands program may point to engaging a representative of the local food movement as a strategic partner. However, local food advocates and activists may also represent alternative or even competing agendas that need to be carefully and strategically managed to ensure the highest and best use of limited staff time and resources.
Keys to Connected Relationships with Constituents:
- Develop a nuanced understanding of farming practices and farm business models
- Foster strategic partnerships with food and farm organizations in your area that share your goals (and who may be substantially different from your non-working lands partners)
- Carefully cultivate relationships with local food movements when it fits your unique organizational niche and services
Land trusts that have agricultural working lands face the additional challenge of balancing conservation and business needs in a complex industry. My first post considered the implications this balancing act have on a land trust’s identity and in part 3 of this series, we will explore impacts on organizational capacity.