A fifth-generation Idahoan has been hired as the American Farmland Trust’s new Idaho program manager as it gears up to protect the state’s famland.

David Anderson will have an office in his Boise home and a field office at Peaceful Belly Farm near Caldwell.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in Idaho partnered with the trust to create the position.

“This has been a topic of conversation for some time now, and I am honored to have been selected by AFT and the NRCS to be a catalyst to create some tangible results through projects and education,” said Anderson, 52.

His family owns and operates a ranch near Leadore in Lemhi County. He is president of the Idaho Center for Sustainable Agriculture, which supports growers working to improve soil health.

“Idaho is losing its best farmland at an alarming rate,” said Addie Candib, the trust’s Pacific Northwest regional director. “Idaho is one of the fastest-growing states in the country and lacks some of the policy and planning tools that its neighboring states have put in place to address farmland loss.”

To be successful in Idaho, “we need to have an on-the-ground presence who is deeply enmeshed in Idaho’s agricultural communities and who could partner with organizations and groups on the ground.”

“Idaho growers have an opportunity to use agricultural protection as a means to protect a multi-generational legacy of land stewardship and value,” Anderson said. “Agricultural protection is a proven approach to maintaining economic and community health.”

He started Oct. 12. Previously, he worked for three years as a project developer for The Conservation Fund, a national nonprofit that focuses primarily on conserving wildlife habitat.

Earlier, Anderson worked for more than 20 years around the West in environmental stewardship consulting, drought response and planning and permitting developments designed using balanced-growth principles. The principles consider social, economic and environmental values.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in hydrology at the University of Arizona.

Now with the trust, “I am actively connecting with agricultural protection peers and stakeholders who are folks I have known or new relationships I am creating,” he said.

Anderson said a near-term goal is to partner with NRCS to put together “some initial smaller-scale agricultural protection projects on the ground that are going to have the kind of measurable metrics that will allow for us to then scale up and do more of these projects — with more acres or more grower participants.”

Local and regional leaders “need to say, ‘Look, this does work,’ and that this is a positive thing for long-term community resilience,” he said. Successful protection projects could provide “something positive for people to get behind.”

American Farmland Trust this year started the Idaho Agricultural Land Protection Roundtable. He will coordinate the online events.

The trust works to protect agricultural land and keep producers on it, and to promote environmentally sound farming practices.

Anderson said he thinks in terms of protection rather than preservation, as farms and ranches are dynamic and have a significant economic impact.

Sign up for our Top Stories newsletter

Recommended for you