Farming is the foundation of the southern Illinois economy. Working lands in our area provide crops and food to the local communities and people throughout the globe. Working lands also define the rural character of much of our region and provide a green oasis when located within communities. Beyond food, well-managed farmland offers wildlife habitat, builds healthy soils, sequesters carbon, and provides scenic open space.
Southwestern Illinois contains roughly 800,000 acres of prime farmland – some of the most highly productive soils in the world. We work to protect these critical soils from development while helping farmers preserve their farming legacy, connect new farmers to the land, and bolster farmland’s economic viability.
Agricultural Conservation Easements
Through Agricultural Conservation Easements, HeartLands Conservancy has preserved more than 1,600 acres of active production farms in southern Illinois. Agricultural Easements allow the land to remain in agricultural use in perpetuity while protecting the land from development. Like a standard conservation easement, an agricultural easement is a flexible tool for preserving a farming legacy.
Agricultural Land Donations
HeartLands Conservancy accepts the donation of agricultural land throughout southern Illinois. When we assume ownership of a farm, we commit to farming the land in ways that preserve habitat and biodiversity, mitigate climate change, support healthy watersheds, and remain economically viable. We seek to use regenerative farming practices whenever feasible.
Best Management Practices
Agricultural best management practices (BMPs) help keep valuable soils in place, reduce the need for chemical fertilizers, and minimize water pollution. We work in many of the region’s watersheds to assist farmers with BMPs.