Making Allies for healthier communities

"Conservation must embrace the needs and values of communities that depend on the resource."

By Carolyn Waldron September 10, 2019

I've come to know that community, collaboration and aspiration, and the consideration of others are essential to consequential land conservation. Many years ago, I heard author Jonathan Adams give a talk and he advised that "conservation must embrace the needs and values of communities that depend on the resource."

This sentiment rang clear when I visited with an all-volunteer conservation group in Saint Thomas in the Virgin Islands: Overlooking calm, clear Magens Bay, a board member challenged us to consider what we were saving and for whom. In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust understands these creeds and has set out to bring them to life. 

OWLT joined with the Fondy Food Center, the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District and others to benefit neighbors living in Milwaukee's urban center and beyond. The Land Trust Alliance organized this community effort, called Making Allies for Healthier Communities, to catalyze land conservation in the consideration of others — "by paying attention to what sustains life and livelihoods," as Jonathan Adams put it. The Making Allies partnership aspires to conserve land and water, all while giving local farmers and neighbors a helping hand.

You can learn more about this community effort by watching this video.

People are at the forefront of everything we do at the Alliance. So we formed the Making Allies partnership to protect water quality while conserving healthy soils and prime farmland for farmers that deliver healthy food to urban neighbors. Central to our conservation goals is the resolve to also provide land security for local farmers, particularly among families and beginning farmers. By conserving this farm in the Milwaukee River watershed, we also are caring for these farmers' supply of local, fresh food sought by African American and other residents who regularly shop at the Fondy Farmers Market.

Every day, we're at work at the Alliance to promote land conservation and advocate funding to conserve our country's bounty — so we are especially pleased that the Farm Bill's Regional Conservation Partnership Program is part of this spirited community effort. Staff with the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Wisconsin are providing funding, conservation planning and farmer education support. We are well along the way to realizing our collective vision.

Of course, we have more work to do here. Our ambition is to see local farmers own the land to ensure their economic success and independence. By farming closer to urban markets and using practices to promote soil health and water quality, we expect to ensure these farmers' source of fresh, local food.

In Milwaukee and across the country, efforts such as the Making Allies partnership are making a difference in nourishing our communities. As the Alliance ramps up our relevance campaign, you'll hear about other projects and partnerships like the Making Allies project. In the meantime, please join us in celebrating our far-reaching accomplishments!