Farmland Easement Support Specialist

Who We Are

American Farmland Trust is the only national organization that takes a holistic approach to agriculture, focusing on the land itself, the agricultural practices used on that land, and the farmers and ranchers who do the work. Since our founding in 1980, AFT has helped permanently protect over 6.5 million acres of agricultural lands, advanced environmentally-sound farming practices on millions of additional acres and helped thousands of farm families make a go of it (primarily through programs that increase farm viability and/or enhance farmland access). Long a pioneering leader, AFT is now riding a new wave of growth, driven by agriculture’s most pressing needs and opportunities.
We believe diversity drives innovation. We are inclusive. We embrace differences. We recognize and respect the fundamental value and dignity of all our employees. We celebrate the unique traditions, heritages, and experiences our employees bring to the workplace. We are committed to creating and sustaining an inclusive culture that promotes and values diversity, and where everyone feels empowered to bring their authentic selves to work every day.

The Position
The Farmland Easement Support Specialist is an exciting new role that will focus on enhancing and expediting the pace of farmland protection in Massachusetts by helping the Commonwealth’s farmland conservation community navigate a pivotal moment and unprecedented opportunity for farmland protection. The pace of farmland protection in Massachusetts is at its lowest in decades, with significant farmland loss projected in the coming years (nearly 75,000 acres are projected to be converted to non-farm uses by 2040). At the same time, a massive, historic increase in federal funding for farmland protection will become available starting in 2024 and is projected to increase significantly over the next five years. The Farmland Easement Support Specialist will play a pivotal role in helping the conservation community collectively meet this moment and seize this exciting opportunity to permanently conserve farmland.

The Specialist will have three primary roles:
1. Build the capacity of Massachusetts land trusts and municipalities to navigate farm protection funding programs, with a primary focus on the federal Agricultural Conservation Easement Program-Agricultural Lands Easement (ACEP-ALE) program in order to rapidly increase the application pool;
2. Directly support Massachusetts land trusts and municipalities to leverage and align other funding programs with federal dollars, including the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resource’s (MDAR) Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR) Program and local sources; and
3. Work closely with the MA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) staff and MDAR’s APR Program staff to facilitate greater alignment and improve efficiencies in federal and non-federal farm protection funding programs to make programs easier for applicants to understand, apply for, and utilize in tandem.

The Specialist will report to and work closely with AFT’s New England Program Manager, while also collaborating in a support role to USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) staff and in coordination with Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) staff and other partners. The Specialist will also collaborate with AFT’s National Agricultural Land Network (NALN) and AFT’s Farmland Information Center (FIC) to enhance resources and learning opportunities, as well as spur innovation in agricultural land protection among Massachusetts farmland conservation practitioners.

Key Responsibilities:
Conduct outreach, educate, and direct support to Massachusetts conservation partners about farm protection funding opportunities and tools.
Provide direct one-on-one assistance to land trusts, municipalities, and other partners in navigating the ACEP-ALE application process, from start to finish.
Work with AFT, NRCS and MDAR staff on improved farm protection program alignment and communication to maximize federal and state funding opportunities.
Design, launch, and support a land trust peer cohort to rapidly increase the applicant pool and number of successful applications for federal farmland protection funding.
Participate in and provide organizational capacity, as needed, to the MA Land Trust Coalition’s Ag Conservation Working Group, the Easement Sub-Committee of the NRCS-MA State Technical Committee, and other statewide initiatives.
Help to promote and advance the adoption of a Farmland of Local Importance (FLI) designation in Massachusetts towns, to increase the number of farm properties eligible for federal funding.
Work with AFT’s New England and National communications teams to promote the use of ACEP-ALE and other easement programs through storytelling that highlights partnerships, land protection success stories, and issues tied to land such as farm viability, food security, and soil health.
Engage with other AFT staff in similar roles across the organization to share strategies and lessons learned.
Support broader efforts to build capacity among agricultural land protection partners in New England and spur innovation in agricultural land protection in the region.

Nuts and Bolts Experience
You have direct experience with agriculture, natural resources, and land protection. Prior experience with USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) processes and the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) Program is preferred.
You have direct experience and have demonstrated success undertaking and completing farm protection projects on behalf of a land trust, town, or agency.
You have proven experience organizing diverse stakeholders toward a common objective, including in-person and virtual settings.
You have proven experience offering one-on-one support to individuals and teams on a complex topic.
You have navigated a complex system or process and have demonstrated skill in improving efficiency and accessibility of information.
You have led and inspired groups around a common goal and you have strong inter-personal skills.
If you have at least 10 years of directly relevant experience supporting farmland protection with at least 5 years of experience providing direct technical assistance relative to federally funded easements or at least 2 years of experience as an NRCS employee working within the ACEP or FRPP programs, you may qualify for this role as at the Senior Technical Specialist level.

Experienced farmland conservation practitioner with a track record of success.
Proficient community organizer with the passion, energy, and collaborative mindset to substantially increase the pace of farmland protection in Massachusetts.
Strong listening, problem-solving, and communication skills, capable of embracing diverse perspectives and facilitating the implementation of new and innovative ideas.
Highly motivated, resourceful, and demonstrated leadership abilities.
Excellent public speaking and facilitation skills.
Adept at building and nurturing relationships with others.

A bachelor’s and/or master’s degree in a relevant field and a minimum of 4 years of related work experience in natural resources, conservation, land protection, agriculture, and/or project management.
While this is primarily a remote position based in Massachusetts, some regular, in-person work and travel across the state will be required. Some limited, in-person work at the NRCS MA state office in Amherst may be required, especially during on-boarding. Occasional out-of-state travel may also be required for events such as all-staff meetings or regional convenings.

Knowledge, Approach and Know-How
You care deeply about farmers and land.
You have a deep working knowledge of New England agriculture and conservation, and an understanding of the culture of farmers and farming. Ideally, you are familiar with Massachusetts agricultural and conservation stakeholders and communities.
You understand town government and how things work at the local level.
You are excited about this big challenge, and you’re a big thinker who can stay grounded in practical and actionable solutions. You get excited about goal-setting and systematically setting the stage for success through thoughtful planning.

The salary range is from $60,000 -$65,000 for full-time employees (37.5 hours/week), based upon experience. Candidates with the specific additional experience listed above for the Senior Technical Specialist level may be eligible for an increased pay level. While AFT prefers for this to be a full-time position, alternative arrangements will be considered for the ideal candidate.

American Farmland Trust offers a full benefits package for full-time employees:
Medical & Prescription Coverage
Dental Coverage
Vision Coverage
Company Paid Life Insurance & Long-Term Disability (LTD)
Voluntary Life Insurance
Flexible Spending Account (FSA) – Healthcare & Dependent Care
Health Savings Account (HSA)
401(k) 10% match after six months of employment
Sick Leave: Regular full-time employees accrue 3.5 hours per pay period (13 “sick days” per year).
Vacation Leave: Accrue 15 days during the first year increasing by one day per year to 20 days per year.
Holidays: The Company observes fixed eleven holidays during the year (all offices closed): plus, the week off between Christmas and New Years and a choice of 3 other floating holidays depending on hiring date.
While applications will be accepted and reviewed until the position is filled, applicants who apply with a resume and cover letter by December 8th will be reviewed first.

We provide equal employment opportunities (EEO) to all employees and applicants for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, expression or identity, national origin, age, disability, or genetics. In addition to federal law requirements, American Farmland Trust complies with applicable state and local laws governing nondiscrimination in employment in every location in which we have facilities. This policy applies to all terms and conditions of employment, including recruiting, hiring, placement, promotion, termination, layoff, recall, transfer, leaves of absence, compensation, and training.
Salary Description