New England farmers gaining ground

Land For Good awarded $641,000 grant to help beginning farmers access land

Landowner meets with perspective farmer to discuss a lease-to-own opportunity for their farmland. (Land For Good)

KEENE, N.H. — Land For Good announced that it has been awarded a $641,000 grant to help beginning farmers who seek land in New England or who want to improve their tenure situation. The Land Access Project expands LFG’s collaborative work to help New England beginning farmers successfully access land to start or grow their farms. The project will also benefit established farmers seeking to plan a farm transfer or find a successor.

The grant comes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) through the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program which is administered by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). USDA awarded more than $17 million in grants to organizations nationwide that will provide training and education for beginning farmers and ranchers. (USDA)

This second three-year phase of LFG’s Land Access Project brings together over 40 collaborating organizations, agencies and individual experts to continue regional collaboration on farmland access, transfer and tenure. The project takes a comprehensive, systems approach to improve programs and policies around land access and transfer in each New England state. Project teams and partners will work with established and transitioning farmers, landowners, conservation organizations, service providers, communities and policymakers.

Across New England, about one-third of the farms and farmland are owned and managed by farmers at or beyond retirement age, 65 years and older, and that number is growing. Over 50% of the principle farm operators are age 45 to 64 and will be facing their own succession challenges in the next couple decades. (US Census of Agriculture) What these farmers do with their land and other farm assets as they exit farming will shape Maine’s agricultural landscape for generations to come. The Land Access Project will help farmers access land to start or grow their farms and to support established farmers to transfer their farms to next generation farmers.

Accessing farmland is a challenge for all farmers, but it is particularly daunting for beginning farmers who mostly come from non-farming backgrounds and lack access to capital. At the same time, an aging farmer population – many of whom lack identified successors – face the challenge of passing on their farms to the next generation. Acquiring land and passing it on are two sides of the same farmland access “coin.”

“Our long term goals of this project,” says Jim Hafner, Executive Director of Land For Good, “are to give beginning farmers more knowledge and skills to access land and improve land tenure. Beginning farmers will connect with established farmers, as well as landowners, so farms will be more effectively transferred. We’ll also be looking at land access innovations to create stronger programs to assist farmers to access land in New England and nationally.”

Founded and based in Keene, NH, LFG works throughout New England to help farmers access and transfer farms and farmland. It is one of the few groups nationally focused on farmland access, transfer and tenure. In addition to innovation and policy work, LFG provides education, resources and direct services to farm seekers, established farmers, landowners, and community stakeholders in all six New England states.

—Land For Good

For more articles out of New England, click here.

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