Openlands looks to improve the health of land and water in Illinois, and improve habitat for wildlife across our region, but that requires comprehensive planning for our landscapes. With more than a third of the lands in the Chicago metropolitan region (Cook, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Lake, McHenry, and Will counties) and more than 80% of all land in Illinois under cultivation, we must engage farmers to meet these objectives.
Conservationists and small farmers are united in common priorities: clean water, healthy soils, and fresh food all share a dependence on land. However, modern industrial agriculture practices result in water pollution, poor soil quality, and increased threats to wildlife. Luckily, we are seeing a reduction in these harmful practices in Illinois, and Openlands is assisting small farmers to keep us trending in the right direction.
Partnering with farmers is a mutually beneficial relationship. Farmland conservation supports the long term viability of small farms and the surrounding communities as more consumer dollars are returned to Illinois communities. Agricultural conservation easements, for example, can ensure that farmland remains active, healthy, and affordable. These practices lead to healthier land, cleaner waters, and healthy wildlife. Openlands sees partnerships with small and new farmers as an essential aspect of conservation, so we work with willing partners in sustainable agriculture for the benefit of all communities.