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Land Stewardship Project Executive Director to Step Down
Minnesota Ag Connection - 09/11/2019

The Land Stewardship Project (LSP) announced that Mark Schultz will be stepping down as executive director. Schultz will be working closely with LSP's board of directors in coming months to ensure a seamless and effective transition.

Schultz became executive director in 2017, taking over the reins from George Boody, who had occupied that position since 1993. Before becoming executive director, Schultz was the organization's Policy and Organizing Program director, as well as its associate director. He first joined LSP's staff in 1987, and with the exception of a period when he worked for other grassroots organizations in the late 1980s and early 1990s, has been an organizer and program director for the organization ever since.

"I have been honored and blessed to be associated with the Land Stewardship Project for the past three decades," said Schultz. "When I became executive director in 2017, I took the position knowing that it would be a transition to the next generation of LSP leadership. I will be leaving the Land Stewardship Project knowing that we're in an extremely strong position organizationally and financially to bring about positive changes for the land, people, and communities. I'm excited to see this work move forward under new leadership."

LSP board chair Jody Lenz thanked Schultz for his years of service to LSP, as well as grassroots, rural organizing in general. Lenz, who farms near Star Prairie in western Wisconsin, said Schultz has had a "deep and broad presence" both within LSP and the greater community, and his ability to inspire others to work for positive change has been particularly key.

"I have never worked with someone who has been such an excellent leader and who is so good at bringing out leadership skills in others," said Lenz. "I certainly experienced that firsthand."

During Schultz's tenure as executive director, LSP launched a major soil health program, established a 501(c)(4) political action arm called the Land Stewardship Action Fund, advanced work on racial and gender justice, grew the organization's membership base, and developed strong relationships with allied groups locally, regionally, and nationally.

Lenz said the organization is in a particularly good position for a leadership transition as a result of a new "Vision for the Future" five-year plan that was released in early September. The plan, which was the result of input from hundreds of LSP members, lays out seven strategic initiatives the organization will advance in the next five years and beyond. These initiatives include: addressing the agricultural economic crisis; increasing land access for small- and mid-sized farmers; building a functional local and regional food system; advancing solutions to the climate crisis; expanding LSP's membership base; growing the organization's work on economic, racial, and gender justice; and increasing LSP's organizational effectiveness by upgrading its internal systems of operation.

"We believe that the Land Stewardship Project is up to the challenge of this historic moment," Lenz and Schultz wrote in the introduction to the five-year plan. "It is clear that far-reaching change is needed, and that LSP needs to be a part of making that happen."

Lenz, who, along with Schultz and other members of the long-range plan committee, helped develop the "Vision for the Future" document, said it provides a critical roadmap for the next executive director and the organization as a whole moving forward.

"We may be losing Mark, but in some ways, there couldn't be a better time for this transition," said Lenz. "The five-year plan, along with our phenomenal staff and highly motivated membership base, gives LSP the kind of depth needed to do the important work that needs to be done."

The Land Stewardship Project will begin an extensive search for a new executive director in October, according to Aleta Borrud, an LSP board member who chairs the executive director transition committee. She said the transition occurs at a time when the organization is in a good position to build on its current work while addressing evolving challenges like the farm financial crisis and racial injustice.

"We are looking for a strong candidate who is aware of the challenges facing our rural communities and farms," said Borrud, a retired physician from Rochester, Minn., "and who is also committed to leading an organization like LSP that's dedicated to utilizing people-centered power to create a positive future for everyone."

LSP is a private, nonprofit, membership-based organization founded in 1982 to foster an ethic of stewardship for farmland, to promote sustainable agriculture, and to develop healthy communities. LSP's offices are located in the Minnesota communities of Lewiston, Montevideo, and Minneapolis.

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