Tom Lyon, one of this year’s winners of the Rod Nilsestuen Award for Working Land Preservation, has been dedicated to farmland protection for over 25 years. Tom was a successful agribusiness leader who built a breeding cooperative in Shawano into an international success. Tom also served on the board of American Farmland Trust and remains a trusted advisor to this day. Through his efforts, American Farmland Trust re-established a presence in the state and raised tens of thousands of dollars to support that effort.
Tom was a visionary who saw the urgent need to preserve working lands and understood that they were a critical natural resource, fundamental to life itself and to the state’s most basic industry. He realized that the wasteful destruction of these lands would have grave consequences for our economy, society and environment and thus he began to work on a toolkit that would enhance Wisconsin’s farmland protection.
His work on this toolkit took place in a successful partnership with the namesake of this award, Rod Nilsestuen, which established the Working Lands Initiative and Purchase of Agricultural Easements (PACE) program. Together, they built the program from the ground up, seeking input from citizens all across the state at forums, workshops, and listening sessions. PACE has resulted in the protection of thousands of acres of working lands, helping to reduce the trend of rapid farmland losses throughout the state.
Tom continues to be active in farmland protection efforts, serving as a key member of the Friends of Farmland Protection Coalition, which was assembled by American Farmland Trust, and 1000 Friends of Wisconsin, a group that promotes wise land use.
Please join us in celebrating and honoring Tom’s many achievements at our annual Land Conservation Leadership Awards Ceremony on September 26th at the Monona Terrace in Madison, WI.