MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — A grassroots organizer with decades of experience empowering local communities around environmental and sustainability issues has been named the Land Stewardship Project’s new executive director, the organization’s board of directors announced today. Scott Elkins, who took the helm at the Land Stewardship Project (LSP) this week, is also leading the organization’s 501(c)4 advocacy action arm, the Land Stewardship Action Fund (LSAF).
The child and grandchild of Texas cattle ranchers, Elkins brings to this position three decades of experience working at the grassroots level. His new role represents a return to the organization — Elkins worked as an LSP organizer in the late 1990s, during which he focused on helping communities protect farmland in the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area. For the past two decades, he has worked for the Sierra Club at the state and national level. Most recently, he served as the organization’s national director of volunteer and leader engagement. Previously, he served as the Sierra Club’s director of grassroots effectiveness and, before that, as the director of the Minnesota chapter.
“We are excited to have Scott on board at LSP; he brings years of experience organizing people around making their communities better places to live and work,” said Beth Slocum, who chairs LSP’s board of directors and farms near Welch in southeastern Minnesota. “His personal and professional background shows he deeply believes in our mission to promote stewardship of the land and the health of rural communities through regenerative, family farm-based agriculture. Scott is truly committed to the values and vision of our member-led organization, and we are eager to work with him to grow LSP’s powerful, positive impact in our rural communities and across the agricultural landscape.”
Elkins said he is passionate about working with local people who are dedicated to creating sustainable, resilient communities. Too often when it comes to discussions about economic sustainability and environmental health, farming communities are written off as “sacrifice zones,” he said.
“LSP has always been a leader in lifting up the voices and stories of people in communities that are often neglected and silenced,” he said. “I am excited to help lead the Land Stewardship Project’s talented staff as we focus on building and supporting that critical area where farming, food, communities and ecological health intersect.”
Elkins begins his leadership of LSP at a time when the 41-year-old organization is expanding its work in the areas of soil health, beginning farmer training, farm business transition, policy and community food systems. LSP’s work in these areas had a significant impact during the recently adjourned session of the Minnesota Legislature. The organization’s members had unprecedented success advancing a set of policy proposals that support regenerative agriculture, soil health, community food systems, emerging farmers, rural communities, healthcare reform and landscape sustainability.
“I think LSP’s recent success advancing policies that are fueled by its work shows that the constituency we represent carries a lot of value and integrity with policy makers,” said Elkins. “It goes to show that the Land Stewardship Project’s efforts to empower farmers, rural residents and anyone else who cares about the future of the land is needed now more than ever.”
Elkins takes the reins from Amy Brugh, who has served as LSP’s interim executive director since January, when Mike McMahon stepped down as the organization’s leader. McMahon is now on staff with Addition, a national group that is working to spark grassroots efforts in areas underserved by organizing. During the past six months, Brugh did extensive work bolstering LSP’s internal infrastructure and working with the staff and board to usher in permanent leadership.
“Amy has done a phenomenal job providing the kind of stability our staff requires to do the critical work that needs done while setting LSP up well for permanent leadership,” said Slocum. “We greatly appreciate the good counsel and depth of experience she contributed to this transition period.”
The Land Stewardship Project (landstewardshipproject.org) is a private, nonprofit, membership-based organization founded in 1982 to foster an ethic of stewardship for farmland, to promote sustainable agriculture and to develop healthy communities. It works throughout the Upper Midwest and has offices in the Minnesota communities of Lewiston, Montevideo and south Minneapolis.