SACRAMENTO — Access to land is the greatest challenge facing next-generation farmers. The problem is compounded by unstable land tenure, increasing land costs, and constant pressure to convert farmland for development. Yet according to the 2017 USDA Census of Agriculture, 27% of California farmers are beginning farmers with up to 10 years of experience. The average age of the state’s farmers is nearly 60, which is two years older than the national average.
California FarmLink is encouraging farm and ranch landowners to use its new online Land Portal to promote available farm and ranch lands for next-generation farmers. The organization has facilitated hundreds of landowner-farmer connections. The land listing service is provided for an annual fee of $25, which includes a brief land listing on its public website, a more detailed listing in its Land Portal, and promotion on social media. FarmLink also provides support with lease agreements and education to sustain successful farm businesses.
California FarmLink’s Land Portal is essentially an agricultural dating service, where landowners remain anonymous until they choose to either reach out to “landseekers” or respond to a farmer’s inquiry. Landowners can post land for lease or sale, and farmers can share their interests and qualifications. Typically the number of farmers exceeds the number of land opportunities by 5:1, which reflects the difficulty next-generation farmers experience when searching for land and establishing secure land tenure.
When connections are made, FarmLink can support the development of land tenure agreements with the interests of both parties in mind. Liya Schwartzman, Central Valley Regional Coordinator at FarmLink, says, “We’re supporting landowners who are interested in keeping their land productive while helping next-generation farmers to access land and maintain viable farm businesses. This is fundamental for the future of California agriculture.”
California FarmLink has developed equitable land tenure agreements, and unique lease clauses, with assistance from the Mills Legal Clinic at Stanford University. Optional lease clauses address the needs of both landholders and tenants including soil health, drought conditions, infrastructure improvements, as well as pathways to ownership such as first rights of refusal and options to purchase.
The mission of California FarmLink is to invest in the prosperity of farmers and ranchers through lending, education, and access to land. The organization envisions a healthy food system where farmers and ranchers have equitable opportunities to build wealth and conserve natural resources. Learn more at californiafarmlink.org
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