At first glance, the 40-acre farm at the Natural Lands’ Stroud Preserve in Chester County looks like any other farm. Green corn plants stretch towards sun. Hay fields shimmer at dusk. Upon closer inspection, however, it proves to be an unusual growing project.
The preserve is home to a six-year Watershed Impact Trial, a partnership between the Stroud Water Research Center and the Rodale Institute, supported by a $6 million grant from the William Penn Foundation. It investigates farming’s impact on the watershed, from pesticide residue and soil quality to the health of the nearby stream.
There’s reason to track the results. The Delaware River Watershed, our source of drinking water, is influenced by farms upstream—and 20 percent of the land draining into the Delaware is in agriculture, says Chris Kieran, William Penn Foundation senior program associate. Farms play an outsized role in determining the cleanliness of the water in our tap.