WASHINGTON — American Farmland Trust, the organization behind the national movement No Farms No Food©, has launched the first group of certified Land Access Trainers from the Farms for the Next Generation initiative, which is a nationwide project to address the critical issue of success for the next generation of farmers and ranchers — securing suitable land to start and expand their operations. As the LATS spread out across the country, they will deliver a professionally designed experiential curriculum to teach beginning farmers and ranchers how to lease, purchase and receive land through inheritance or gift, along with find and assess land, and the basic financial skills needed to make informed land access decisions.
“AFT selected 25 experienced agricultural educators and service providers from across the country to serve as the inaugural class of LATs to deliver this critical curriculum. We received more than 100 applications and ran a competitive process to find a group that could work with diverse beginning farmers and ranchers across the U.S. and train additional trainers as we expand the program,” said Julia Freedgood, assistant vice president of programs.
She continued, “These LATs represent the start of a nationwide network to support beginning farmers and ranchers as they sort through the financial, legal and technical challenges of gaining access to land.”
Farming is facing a rapidly approaching huge demographic shift of land and wealth.
Landowners are aging. More than 40 percent of American farmland is owned by seniors aged 65 and older – both principal operators and nonoperator landlords. As they retire, their land, and thus the hardest to attain but most important resource for beginning farmers, is vulnerable to being lost to real estate development as farm families look to pay for retirement and see few alternatives to selling their land to whoever will pay them the most.
But there is good news. Beginners are on the rise — there is an increasing crop of beginning farmers ready to take up the charge. There are almost one million new and beginning producers, with 10 years or less of experience, now over 26 percent of all producers.
The challenge is the potential disconnect, getting new farmers on the land as senior farmers retire. Providing support for beginning farmers as they work to overcome the biggest hurdle they face in starting a farming operation, access to land, while supporting senior farmers in successfully transferring their farms as they exit farming – this is what AFT’s Farmland for a Next Generation seeks to address.
Land Access Trainers are spread throughout the country to specialize in their region’s unique land issues. Our network of LATs will work with beginning farmers and ranchers, alongside adjacent professionals, to navigate the terrain of land transition in its varied structures.
“This curriculum is like having a guide to helping beginning farmers with their land questions. I have never seen that before, all of that knowledge and information in one place is what AFT has achieved.” –Siddhartha Dasgupta- Kentucky State University
“I have the tools I need to adapt the educational pieces to my learners’ needs, which is important because it impacts our ability to get farmers on the land.” –Kelly Henderson- Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association
In addition to expanding the LAT program, AFT is working to make the curriculum, resources, materials and training modules widely available to USDA, Extension, BFRDP project leaders, BFR educators and service providers through the BFRDP Curriculum and Training Clearinghouse and AFT’s Farmland Information Center.
–American Farmland Trust
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