LFG’s Land Access Project Phase 2 (LAP2), which brings together over 40 partner organizations, agencies and individual experts for a three-year regional collaboration, is approaching the end of year-two of the project. Together we continue to develop and strengthen programs, services and policies, build professional networks in each state, our region and nationally, as well as investigate and promote innovative land access and transfer tools and methods.
Project teams and partners are working on an ambitious plan designed to increase the number of beginning farmers making informed land access decisions, benefiting from improved linking programs, and achieving secure land tenure. Highlights of the work tackled in the second year of the project include:
- Developed of a Farm Succession School for New England farmers looking for some structure and motivation to tackle succession planning—one of a farmer’s biggest challenges. Nine farm families participated this year, receiving help planning for their farm business, farmland, and retirement with tools and advice that enables them to take next steps. The course was a three-session program initially offered in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. In year-three of LAP, this school will be offered in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island. Dates will be announced soon!
- Launched a new Farm Transfer Network of New England website. Retiring New England farmers have identified a need for technical assistance on specific aspects of farm succession and transfer. They can find the right service providers along with farm transfer planning resources at farmtransfernewengland.org. Do you offer transfer planning assistance to farmers and farm families? Join this unique business directory! Business planners, attorneys, accountants and other farm service providers who offer farm transfer planning assistance can list their services and expertise on this targeted site that is marketed directly to farmers.
- Established a Professional Training for Farm Succession Advisors to learn from cross-training to serve transitioning farmers. Exiting farmers need attorneys and other service providers who specialize in farm succession. Nearly 60 experienced and new attorneys, business and financial planners, accountants, land trust and conservation staff, and lenders from across New England explored the many complex legal and technical issues surrounding farm succession and transfer planning at a regional two-day professional training that helped to build knowledge, skills and networks to better serve exiting farm families. A comprehensive legal desk reference from the training materials will be available online later this year.
- Formed a New England Farm Link Collaborative (NEFLC), a partnership of farm link programs and land access services in New England, to help farmers and landowners connect. NEFLC includes Connecticut FarmLink, Land For Good, Maine FarmLink, New Entry Sustainable Farming Project, and University of Vermont Extension. Through cross-postings of farm opportunities, referrals to specialists, joint educational programming and collaborative outreach, NEFLC provides a variety of farmland access support services.
- Upgraded the New England Farmland Finder website to help farm seekers and farm property holders find each other. The site’s format is similar to “for sale by owner” sites or classified listings. Because it is free, simple, region-wide, automated and constantly current, it can serve as a friendly portal for property holders and farmland seekers. The site was completely upgraded with device-responsive functioning and other features.
- Improved the Acquiring Your Farm online tutorial (AYF) on a new courseware platform. This free, online tutorial for aspiring, new and beginning farmers helps prepare them to acquire farmland. AYF contains lessons organized around seven topics providing a thorough introduction to the complex issues of farmland access and tenure such as financial assessment, how to conduct a farm search, pros and cons of leasing farmland, and successful communication and negotiation. AYF also contains a curated collection of resources that will help farm seekers answer some of the most critical questions they face.
- Convened the Affordable Housing and Land Conservation Advocates to explore such topics as farms with no housing, the challenge for entering farmers to invest in farmland and house who may be able to afford one but not both, what is “affordable” to a farmer may not meet the definition of “affordable” in an income-qualified government housing program, competition for farmland from other buyers and established farmers, and also look at multi-generational housing needs within farm transitions add further housing pressures.
- Hosted the Changing Lands, Changing Hands national conference that welcomed over 220 attendees from 40 states sharing their expertise, experiences and perspectives in Denver, Colorado this past June. In 5 plenary panels and 35 breakout sessions, we tackled difficult questions such as those raised by Neil Hamilton, Drake University Agricultural Law Center, in his opening plenary statement. Who owns the land? Who farms it? How is it farmed? And who benefits? LFG hosted the conference in cooperation with USDA. Chris Beyerhelm, USDA’s Acting Administrator for the Farm Service Agency, and Lilia McFarland, USDA’s New and Beginning Farmer and Rancher Program Coordinator, offered opening and closing remarks respectively and participated throughout the conference along with other USDA staff, “This was such a special gathering for so many reasons – not the least of which was the thoughtful attention to the creation and support of multiple diverse communities of discussion within the larger topic,” commented McFarland.