Nominations are now being accepted for American Farmland Trust’s 2008 Steward of the Land Award. The annual $10,000 prize honors farmers and ranchers who best exemplify AFT’s mission of halting the loss of productive farmland and promoting farming practices that sustain a healthy environment.

Nomination forms can be completed online at http://www.farmland.org/programs/award/default.asp, or can be printed, completed, and hand mailed to: Steward of the Land Award-American Farmland Trust, 1200 18th Street, NW, Suite 800, Washington, DC 20036. Nominators may also call (202) 378-1255 for an application or with questions. Nomination materials will be accepted until close of business Dec. 3.

Sandy and Rossie Fisher, beef producers from Manakin-Sabot, Va., were recognized as the 2007 Stewards of the Land for their lifelong commitment to farmland protection and environmental stewardship.

The Fishers operate Brookview Farm, where they raise grass-fed beef and organic eggs that they sell at their on-farm store and to local chefs and grocers. Their farm’s composting operation turns municipal yard waste into organic compost for use on their farm and for other customers.

“Sandy and Rossie, like all AFT Steward of the Land Award winners, have shown by example how successful you can be in agriculture and still be in harmony with the land. They have been instrumental in raising farmland protection issues in many community forums, and they have helped initiate local and state farmland protection efforts,” said Ralph Grossi, president of AFT.

“The Fishers are the first Steward of the Land Award winners from the state of Virginia, and their sustainable farming practices present a model for the federal 2007 farm bill currently being debated in Congress,” Grossi said. “They also have the ability to look down the road, and they understand how serious the issue of farmland loss is to the future of agriculture.”

The Fishers helped found the Goochland Land Alliance in 2002 that educates landowners about conservation easements and were the second farm in Goochland County to put all owned acreage into a conservation easement held by the Virginia Outdoor Foundation and the Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Historic Resources.

Part of their property borders the James River, which is leased to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as part of a wetlands mitigation bank.

The Fishers also participate in the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) that involves keeping all surface water fenced from cattle, establishing watering systems, rotational grazing and 23 acres of buffer strips.

The Fishers intend to put their $10,000 award towards conservation causes.

Established in 1997, AFT’s Steward of the Land Award recognizes the American farmer or farm family who best demonstrates leadership in protecting farmland and caring for the environment. The award honors the memory of Peggy McGrath Rockefeller, an avid farmer and conservationist who helped found AFT.

American Farmland Trust is a national nonprofit organization working with communities and individuals to protect the best land, plan for growth with agriculture in mind and keep the land healthy.