Land For Good (LFG) was founded in 2002 in Keene NH by Bob Bernstein and two partners. Its initial focus was on farm-related, community economic development projects. Kathy Ruhf joined LFG in 2004, while remaining active with the New England Small Farm Institute and NESAWG. Kathy served as co-director with Bob until 2012, at which time she became Executive Director and Bob went on to found Northeast Farm Access, LLC (NEFA), a for-profit venture that works with investors and local community stakeholders on innovative organic farmland access projects.
In 2006, LFG obtained its 501(c)(3) not-for-profit status, and shifted its focus to farmland access, land tenure, and farm succession and transfer. We started with our Farm Legacy Program in response to identifying a huge gap in services around farm succession planning. We developed our unique coaching approach to providing ongoing support and guidance to farm families in planning the transfer their farms to the next generation or owner.
We soon realized that working with transitioning farmers was only part of the solution. To more fully address the land access challenge at a systemic level, we also needed to reach and support non-farming farmland owners. Private, institutional and public non-farming landowners are critically important because of their role in making land available for farming. Nationally, nearly 90% of farm landlords are not farmers, and yet extremely little attention was being paid to their aspirations, needs, and concerns. We started our Working Lands Program in 2007 to serve these land stewards, who are also current and potential farm landlords.
Increasingly, beginning and established farmers contacted us, looking for information and support around accessing land. Amidst the broad recognition of the need for more beginning farmers – and of their considerable challenges – we led the early call for targeted attention to land access and tenure for beginning farmers. Our Farm Seekers Program was launched in 2009 to help farmers get onto land through traditional and innovative methods.
LFG grew by hiring field staff to work in each New England state; Mike Ghia (Vermont), Jo Barrett (Maine), Melissa Benedikt-Blindow (New Hampshire), with Kathy serving as field agent for southern New England. As we deepened our work and collaborations in New England through projects like the Land Access Project Phase 1 and Farmland Advisors, we simultaneously increased our national leadership on these issues by serving on advisory boards, and undertaking projects like FarmLASTS. We developed our “systems” approach to land access and transfer, strengthened our research and policy work, and expanded our board of directors.
In 2013, Jim Habana Hafner was hired as Deputy Director as part of a planned leadership succession strategy. The organization immediately underwent a brand strategy process and designed and launched a new website at landforgood.org, to clarify the brand, increase its name recognition among farmers, landowners and service providers, and diversify its revenue streams. In 2013 and 2018, Land For Good was awarded its second and third USDA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development grant awards to provide core funding for Phases 2 and 3 of its regional Land Access Project. At the outset of 2015, Jim became Executive Director. Kathy became Sr. Program Director (2015-18) until Shema Blum-Evitts was hired as Program Director in 2018.
Since 2013, the Land For Good team has grown through hiring of additional program and support staff: Lisa Luciani (Communication Coordinator, 2013-present), Andrew Marshall (Field and Education Director, 2014-18), Cris Coffin (Policy Director, 2015-18), Kate Kellman (Digital Marketing, 2019) and Dakota Rudloff-Eastman (2019). Six field agents have been hired and trained during that time in Connecticut (Rachel Murray 2015-18, Will O’Meara 2019-present), New Hampshire (Cara Cargill 2015-present), Rhode Island (Tess Brown-Lavoie 2016-present), Massachusetts (Jason Silverman 2017-present) and Maine (Abby Sadauckas 2017-present). Our full- and part-time team members are distributed across the region. Nearly all have either operated farms, managed or worked as farms, and/or have formal agricultural training. All our field agents currently maintain active farm businesses or work in other parts of the ag sector. Read more about our team.
Due in part to LFG’s work, land access, tenure and transfer have been widely recognized as top challenges for beginning, established and transitioning farmers. At both the national and state level, there are many more efforts focused on these issues in various ways. LFG continues to be engaged as a leader and strategic partner on programs, policy and research on these issues in our region and nationally. In June 2017, in cooperation with USDA, we organized and hosted Changing Lands, Changing Hands, the second national conference on farm and ranch access, tenure and transfer following a similar LFG conference held eight years prior. In April 2019, LFG convened the first national Farm Link Clinic. The past several years has seen a continued increase in LFG engagement as advisors, technical consultants, and trainers on issues of farmland access and transfer outside of New England.
Late updated 7/29/19