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Land access a part of more beginning farmer projects

Both phases of Land For Good’s regional Land Access Project were supported by grants from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP). USDA recently announced more BFRDP grants, an increasing number of which will also take up land access issues in New England and beyond. These projects are further evidence of the growing recognition of the need to address land access and tenure for beginning and other farmers.

Congratulations to our friends at Southside Community Land Trust (SCLT) and Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) who were each awarded three-year BFRDP grants for projects that include a land access or transfer component. The SCLT initiative (Providence, RI) includes convening a Land Transfer Working Group to execute a “land transfer strategy” that will help urban, socially disadvantaged and incubator farmers purchase or lease farmland in RI. CISA (So. Deerfield, MA) will cooperate with five other Massachusetts “buy local” groups to help beginning farmers in a variety of areas, including accessing land. (Read more) Access to one-on-one technical assistance from Land For Good field agents is a project component.

These two projects join an impressive group around New England already tackling land access with BFRDP support. The Maine Organic Farmers & Gardener’s Association (MOFGA) and Cultivating Community have a land access components in their 2015 BFRDP-funded projects, and both rely on the LFG field team to provide land access training and advising to farmers. University of ConnecticutUniversity of Vermont and Tufts University also just received 2016 BFRDP awards.

“At the recent national meeting of BFRDP project directors, I polled the Northeast projects,” said Kathy Ruhf, Senior Program Director at Land For Good and LAP project director. “Every project present had a land access element or identified land access as a top issue.”

LFG is a partner, advisor or consultant on 9 active BFRDP projects that have land access components. Five of those projects are national in scope or outside New England. Of note nationally is a National Young Farmers Coalition project to develop a “land affordability calculator.” American Farmland Trust’s 2015 national BFRDP project will train “land access trainers” across the country. LFG is also an advisor to a 2016 BFRDP project led by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) that will complete the first ever comprehensive evaluation of BFRDP funded projects to date. Abstracts for 2016 BFRDP projects can be viewed on NIFA’s reporting website.

About the 2015 BFRDP meeting, Executive Director Jim Hafner recalls: “It was obvious at the 2015 meeting that a growing number of projects in other regions were incorporating land access activities. Also encouraging were several projects responding to the recognition that access to land is closely linked to enabling farm succession and transfer for older farmers. Passing farms on and gaining access to land are two sides of the same coin.”

 

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