AUGUSTA — Farmers will learn strategies for tackling succession planning and incorporating an easement into your farm access or transfer plans, plus how to find and secure farmland of your own, negotiate a good lease agreement, and more at an upcoming conference. Land For Good (LFG) and Maine Farmland Trust (MFT) will host the fourth annual Farmland Access & Transfer Conference on December 3, 2018 at the Augusta Civic Center in Augusta ME.
Accessing land or transferring ownership of your farm is an intensely personal experience. The fourth annual conference – the only one of its kind in the region – will offer training, resources, and instructive case studies. In addition, the gathering will feature strategies from the field like the experiences of BrennaMae Googins and Brandon McKenney of Patch Farm. Five years ago they started down their path to farm ownership with a lease-to-own agreement on their “dream farm.” They recently realized their dream and are now farm owners.
“Without the guidance of Land For Good, I’m not sure we could have had the confidence to continually approach our landlord until we found a way to buy the land,” says BreannaMae. She recalls working a farmers market on a late summer morning when she received a text message about a farm listing from her farm and life partner, Brandon, . The farm property was located in Denmark, Maine, less than a half-hour from their family. The farm included 50 acres of forested land, 20 acres of pasture, and a well kept 1820’s farmhouse with sturdy, attached barn. Once a certified organic sheep farm, the farm featured diverse terrain, perfect for both animals and vegetables.
BrennaMae and Brandon knew that finding a suitable farm property was just the beginning. Gaining secure tenure to make this farm their own would take patience, compromise and support. So they reached out to LFG for guidance about how they could own their own land. Working with Jo Barrett, LFG’s Maine Field Agent, the farming couple discussed different paths to ownership and found a solution with a lease-to-own model. Jo helped them craft unique lease provisions—like “statements ensuring rent payments would go towards the principal, an option to buy and a right of first refusal clause”—and coached them through negotiations.
“Land For Good helped us understand what things to include in our lease, as well as how to work with and find compromise with our soon-to-be-landlord,” shares Breanna. Now, after four years growing their farm, high-tunnels dot the landscape, bountiful vegetables and fruits burst forth, and animals rotationally graze to restore the soil’s fertility. And they just finalized a farm purchase loan from the USDA Farm Service Agency— securing the farm long-term for their family and community.
Farmers—both transitioning out of farming and starting or expanding farm enterprises— will make valuable connections at this conference. Last year, the conference brought together over 150 established and beginning farmers, landowners, and agricultural service providers.
The conference is geared toward farm seekers, retiring farmers, and landowners to help them better understand the options, resources, and steps to accessing or transferring farms or farmland. Service providers and other advocates, including land trusts, conservation commissions, town planners and lenders with an interest in fostering affordable farmland access can also benefit from strategies and innovative practices, as well as panel discussions. Co-hosted by LFG and MFT, sponsors include American Farmland Trust, and The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry (DACF) and Maine Harvest Credit Project. The deadline to register is November 28, 2018. Cost of attendance is $20 per person and includes a lunch sourced from local farmers and producers. For more information or to register, go to mainefarmlandtrust.org/access-2018.
–Land for Good
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