Over 50 collaborators kicked off LFG’s Land Access Project, Phase 2 in December 2015 in Leominster, MA. Service providers from six states learned about the project, networked, and started task force and state-based planning. Participant feedback was enthusiastic; the convening provided a solid and energetic launch. “The whole meeting was very useful in setting the context, getting to know the other cooperating groups, and organizing working groups,” shared one collaborator. “These face-to-face meetings are important for bringing energy and commitment to the project.”
An introduction to project goals, structure, and operations, and background on land access issues provided a strong grounding to project collaborators, about half of whom were involved in LFG’s previous Land Access Project. One farmer and community organizer praised the options for involvement, inviting ways to plug in even without organizational support or expertise. The break-outs allowed time to network and plan. “The breakout task force and state meetings were great. I found that all groups were very engaged and it was great to learn more about the individuals before we embark on this project together.”
The project is structured around three task forces (TF) and state-based networking. The Tenure Innovations TF attracted over two dozen members, while the Listing and Linking TF and the Succession and Transfer Assistance TF drew commitments from at least a dozen active members each. Beyond organizing for project work, there was a strong desire for even more time to network across affinity groups and states.
I am very interested in learning about the work of other organizations who may be facing similar issues because I want to expand my organization’s portfolio of services and solutions.”
The value of the LAP structure and network was summed up well by this participant.
In order for us to be able to make the impact that we would like to, to improve the ability of farmers to access farmland here in Maine, we need to work together with other organizations and partners. We can’t do it alone, so having this network of [LAP] collaborators to work with definitely adds value to our organization’s work.”
Successful collaboration depends on participants’ contributions and expectations of benefits. It also hinges on a shared vision of outcomes. Convening participants were polled. They shared what they hoped to contribute and gain from the project, as well as the tangible results they want to see. The depth and breadth of expertise assembled through the project is evident in the long list of contributions participants can make to the network. These include:
- Expertise around farmer education and outreach, adapting for cultural relevance; land selection and suitability; communication; and business education
- Significant outreach capacity to a diversity of farmers at the local level, as well as to national contacts
- Case studies at the local level and outside of New England
- Experience with alternative tenure tools
- Knowledge and expertise about conservation and its interface with land access
- Financing land access for beginning farmers
Innovation was a key desired outcome expressed by participants. They want to expand their professional networks and active collaboration, access new tools, and adopt innovative tools and approaches. Collaborators want to see more – and more diverse – beginning farmers gaining access to farmland, with pathways to stable tenure. They saw the urgent need for more farmers to have succession plans and to build assistance networks to meet that need.
Fifty LAP collaborators are off to a strong start. Since December the TFs have met multiple times to develop and implement their work plans. Each will work in project areas of interest to them, and build expertise from strong project-wide communications, online sharing, and management team coordination. Collaborators will gather together again next fall.
The Land Access Project is funded by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture through its Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, Grant # 2015-04544. The project is directed by Land For Good in partnership with over 40 collaborating organizations, agencies and individual experts in six New England states.