I have been a member of the Land Stewardship Project since 2008, first joining through the Farm Beginnings program. Since then, and even before, as a grass-fed beef farmer, a professor of sustainable agriculture law issues, and now renting our farm fields to Farm Beginning’s graduates, I have observed and participated in LSP’s campaigns and organizing over the years. LSP’s dedication to nurturing the young sustainable farmers of the future and organizing to change the laws/policies that get in the way of more sustainable farmers staying and succeeding on the land have always made an impression on me.
It is very important to me, and I would say, to farm and rural communities and urban centers across the Upper Midwest, that LSP continues to stay strong, standing up for and supporting family farms, rural communities and the land. I am so proud to say that as we move forward, that will be the case.
Now, as chair of the board, I am honored to take part in a momentous occasion for LSP: George Boody’s stepping down from his outstanding 23-year tenure as executive director and the transition to Mark Schultz’ stepping up to take this organization forward through our third decade of “fostering an ethic of stewardship for farmland, promoting sustainable agriculture and developing healthy communities.” For more on this transition, see LSP’s latest press release.
This particular leadership transition process itself says a lot about LSP. As an organization, we as the members along with staff pride ourselves in 1) always looking to discern how we can continue to be sustainable and successful in accomplishing our mission going forward, 2) developing a solid action plan to facilitate that work, and 3) involving the necessary stakeholders in implementing that action plan. This was the process used back in 2006 when it was clear that the scope of LSP’s work had become so broad and deep that it was more than George should be asked to do alone, and so Mark was appointed the organization’s associate director.
More recently, this process was used again when George indicated to the board that he would like to step down as executive director by the end of 2016. The board went to work, with George and Mark’s help, to determine the best course for seamlessly continuing LSP’s success in accomplishing its mission. After interviewing Mark about the experiences that qualify him to be LSP’s executive director and his vision for LSP’s work going forward, the board voted unanimously to hire him as our next executive director. We as a Board are very glad to have helped create an organizational culture where we “grew” our new executive director from within the organization, and to know that he has the support of the staff and the member/leaders with whom he will work going forward.
There is much to celebrate in LSP’s history — more and more family farms farming sustainably; younger farmers getting a good start and staying active in LSP; corporate-backed factory farms and frac sand mines meeting stiff, effective opposition from local communities through LSP’s organizing; public policies advanced and defended by LSP that secure and expand conservation, support beginning farmers, fund needed public research for perennial crops and forages, and protect local democracy. And more. LSP has been and will remain incredibly effective, using the twin strategies of education and organizing to make a difference.
We hope that you will come join us on Friday, Dec. 9, at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn., when we will give thanks to George for his leadership, celebrate the work of LSP members and staff to-date, and move forward as an organization to tackle the important work that lies before us. Both George and Mark will be there, and we’ll also hear a few stories from LSP members. It’s going to be fun. LSP members and allies are being invited — look for an invitation in the mail shortly!
Juliet Tomkins farms near River Falls, Wis.