Land Use and Protection Research Initiative Director
Fully Remote Washington, DC

American Farmland Trust is the only national organization that takes a holistic approach to agriculture, focusing on the land itself, the agricultural practices used on that land, and the farmers and ranchers who do the work. Since our founding in 1980, AFT has helped permanently protect over 6.5 million acres of agricultural lands, advanced environmentally-sound farming practices on millions of additional acres, and helped thousands of farm families make a go of it (primarily through programs that increase farm viability and/or enhance farmland access). Long a pioneering leader, AFT is now riding a new wave of growth, driven by agriculture’s most pressing needs and opportunities. 

We believe diversity drives innovation. We are inclusive. We embrace differences. We recognize and respect the fundamental value and dignity of all our employees. We celebrate the unique traditions, heritages, and experiences our employees bring to the workplace. We are committed to creating and sustaining an inclusive culture that promotes and values diversity, and where everyone feels empowered to bring their authentic selves to work every day.

We provide equal employment opportunities (EEO) to all employees and applicants for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, expression or identity, national origin, age, disability, or genetics. In addition to federal law requirements, American Farmland Trust complies with applicable state and local laws governing nondiscrimination in employment in every location in which we have facilities. This policy applies to all terms and conditions of employment, including recruiting, hiring, placement, promotion, termination, layoff, recall, transfer, leaves of absence, compensation, and training.

Reporting to the Vice President of Programs, the Director of Land Use and Protection Research will lead development and implementation of a land use and farmland protection research agenda that informs AFT’s programs and public policy development. 

The Director and the team will be part of AFT’s internal virtual farmland protection unit, comprised of the Farmland Information Center, Land Projects, Legal Team and National Agricultural Land Network, and will work with unit members to identify and prioritize research questions that could advance national farmland protection and retention efforts and AFT’s policy and program development.  In addition, the Director will collaborate with other AFT initiatives and regional programs on interdisciplinary efforts that address other research and initiatives as they relate to various aspects of AFT’s holistic mission, such as promoting sound farming practices and keeping farmers on the land.

As an integral part of the AFT Program Team, the Land Use and Protection Research Director leads the Land Use and Protection Research Initiative which includes and builds upon the existing Farms Under Threat (FUT) portfolio of projects. The Director will ensure that AFT’s land use research addresses the top organizational priorities and is strategic, coordinated, efficiently delivered, well-received, academically defensible, and impactful. 

Existing and ongoing work in the Farms Under Threat portfolio has focused on the effects of land-use change on agricultural land; future threats to agricultural land from development and climate change; the contributions of working agricultural land to wildlife habitat and connectivity; and other ecosystem services that working agricultural lands provide. Funding has been secured for upcoming work focusing on quantifying the benefits of permanently protected agricultural land, including climate benefits from avoided conversion. The Director will help set the future direction of the research, with topics potentially including: the economic contributions of agricultural land and protected agricultural land to communities; the impact of land-use regulations and permanent protection on development patterns, alternative methods of agricultural land and easement valuation, land ownership and transfer patterns and dynamics; future agricultural land needs at regional, national, and global scales and implications for land-use policy; and further exploration of threats that urban and low-density sprawl pose to agriculture, as well as threats from climate change and opportunities for mitigation. The Director will share learnings with the Policy team to help inform state and federal policy proposals.   

What You’ll Be Working On

  • Providing leadership and management for the Land Use and Protection Research Initiative team and current/future portfolio of projects including the following: manage the team, budget, and project portfolio including the annual work planning and budgeting process for the Initiative; oversee reporting and all project-related communications with NRCS and other funders; and lead on initiative fundraising. 
  • Developing and implementing a long-term vision and strategy for the Land Use and Protection Research Initiative.
  • Leading initiative deliverables that are focused on geospatial mapping (e.g., documenting ecosystem service benefits of permanent agricultural easements and documenting climate benefits of avoided conversion) including methods development, modeling, analysis of results, report writing, extension/outreach, and media/communications elements (interactive website, staff training, and professional presentations).
  • As a member of AFT’s internal virtual farmland protection unit, comprised of the Farmland Information Center, National Agricultural Land Network, Land Projects, and Legal Team, work collaboratively with the unit to identify and prioritize AFT land-use and farmland protection research needs and develop project ideas and funding proposals to meet those needs to further AFT’s holistic mission. 
  • Working with AFT’s Development department and program director peers to fundraise to support and expand Land Use Research initiative projects. 
  • Providing research/analyses that can help guide AFT’s policy development and implementation. 
  • Overseeing the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Team, including continued development of a program providing fee-for-service GIS assistance to internal and external clients. 
  • Harnessing the FUT and future datasets to create partnerships with university and other researchers across different disciplines, as well as other partners such as USDA, state agencies, non-governmental organizations, and use these data to develop and test new hypotheses and to inform decision making.
  • Collaborating with other AFT staff on outreach and communication efforts designed to provide national visibility for AFT and share results with policymakers, farmland protection professionals, planners, scientists, and the general public, such as, Webinars; Policy briefings; Convenings; and Conference presentations. 
  • Supporting a strong team culture of shared learning, innovation and problem solving among AFT staff.  

Required Qualifications 

This is a management position.  All candidates must have demonstrated

  • Team (both remote and in-person), budget and project/portfolio management experience.
  • Project management skills and experience managing diverse teams of individuals, peers, and partners with flexibility and creativity. 
  • Work history of developing and implementing effective land-use research programs and projects. 
  • Experience in using research results to inform advocacy at the state and/or federal levels. 
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills. 
  • Ability to develop partnerships with academic researchers. 
  • Experience and success in fundraising. 
  • Understanding of or familiarity with integrated GIS applications.  
  • Ability to deliver high-quality work in a dynamic organization under time pressure. 
  • Collaborative, outgoing, professional and innovative approach to tackling the future threats to agricultural lands. 

Education & Experience 

  • PhD preferred plus at least 3 years of related experience; or, an MS and at least five to ten years of related experience in agricultural land use or planning discipline with a focus on land use policies, knowledge of policies, programs and tools that protect agricultural land and support agriculture, geography, agriculture, landscape ecology, or a related field. 

Why you should apply

  • Be a part of a purpose-driven, committed, knowledgeable, high-performing, experienced and fun team
  • A diverse and inclusive work environment
  • A cause and mission you can be proud of
  • Competitive compensation & Benefits
  • Remote work opportunities
  • Flexible scheduling

Ready to apply? If this job sounds like a fit for you, then click on the ‘apply’ button below.   Please include a CV/resume and cover letter including but not limited to the following:  

  • Describe your interest in the position, 
  • Your expertise that makes you the right candidate for this position 
  • AFT, like many organizations, is highly concerned with issues of diversity and equity. How has your past work demonstrated an active commitment to both?
  • Why you want to work at American Farmland Trust specifically?
Salary Description
115,000 - 125,000