This story was featured in the Coalition of Oregon Land Trust’s 2016 State of the Lands Report
For those who make their living off the land, Wallowa County has everything: rich soils, abundant water, and
nning natural beauty. But farmers and ranchers here and across Oregon are facing unprecedented pressures. Not only are Oregon’s farmers the oldest in the nation, but an astounding amount of farmland is expected
to change hands over the next two decades: more than 10 million acres, an area the size of Massachusetts and Vermont. Combined with
routine economic uncertainty and land management puzzles, Oregon agriculture today faces complex challenges.
In response, Wallowa Land Trust joined forces with The Nature Conservancy and another local stewardship organization, Wallowa Resources,to apply for funding from the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service. In 2016 they were awarded
a $3.2 million grant through NRCS’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program to offer tools and incentives to willing landowners that will improve soil health, enhance irrigation efficiency, and conserve more than 16,000 acres of farm and ranch land in Wallowa County.
Along with expanding rotational grazing and pivot irrigation, the project will help land trusts purchase conservation easements on farms and ranches, with the goal of keeping agricultural lands in production while protecting important habitat for native plants, fish, and wildlife.
Joe Dawson of Diamond D Farm & Ranch understands how he and other farmers will benefit. “These types of investments in our agricultural lands are vital for our future. They assist in succession planning as well as infrastructure, to make sure the land stays productive and viable for future generations.
“There’s much uncertainty in our future,” Dawson adds, “but assuring that agricultural lands will continue to be productive is a small step in eliminating the unknown.”
Collaborative and creative efforts like these in Wallowa County will go a long way to help family farmers.