Amish Farm

Lancaster Clean Water Fund Grant Will Support Outreach to Amish Landowners and Protect Water Quality

Recently, Lancaster Clean Water Partners and Lancaster County Community Foundation announced the awarding of more than $100,000 in grants to support the quality of water in Lancaster County, PA. RiverStewards Collaborative was one of the fortunate organizations to receive funds from this grant program. We will work with an Amish liaison, Lancaster Farmland Trust, and LandStudies, to lead a series of outreach and engagement meetings with Plain Sect (i.e., Amish) landowners in the county, to educate them on the impacts their farming practices can have on local and Chesapeake Bay watersheds, and to show them how streambank and floodplain restoration projects can protect water quality while allowing them to continue farming.

Why Is This Important?

This project is so valuable because Lancaster County has the second highest population of Amish in the United States. Agriculture is a significant source of non-point pollution (sediment, nitrogen, and phosphorus) for waterways in the Susquehanna River and Chesapeake Bay watersheds. Outreach to Amish farmers on how they can implement streambank and floodplain restoration activities on their farms can play a significant role in reducing polluted runoff while also creating native plant and wildlife habitat.

We will target the Mill Creek watershed (a tributary to the Conestoga River) because it experiences excess nutrient and sediment loads from the substantial agricultural land uses in the watershed (65 percent cropland and 2.6 percent pastureland), particularly from the Amish farms in the area. The watershed also has one of the highest densities of dairy cows in the state, with many farms allowing cows unrestricted access to streams and significant streambank erosion.

What to Expect in the Coming Year(s)

Experience shows that connecting with Amish landowners benefits from close relationships and trust building. RiverStewards has developed a close relationship with an Amish Liaison over the past five+ years, and through this grant we will continue to partner with him to reach out to Amish farmers in the Mill Creek / Conestoga River watersheds in Lancaster County and hold one or more educational workshops with them, all with the ultimate goal of getting a few landowners to agree to constructing a streambank and/or floodplain restoration project on their farm. We will keep everyone informed of our progress via social media and our website in the coming year or two.

We know that this project will not be quick or easy, but the rewards of bringing Amish farmers to the table and getting them involved in streambank and floodplain restoration projects is essential for Pennsylvania to have greater success in reducing its pollutant loads into the Chesapeake Bay. We are excited for the partnership opportunities and greater impact we will be able to have, thanks to this Lancaster Clean Water Fund grant.

Learn more about the grant program and the other awardees here.

Photo: Ad Meskens, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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