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Approach financial decisions with confidence: a new farm access tool

Cover image of farm access tool: Finding Farmland CourseLand For Good shares the goal of making secure, affordable access to land possible for all farmers and ranchers with many organizations, including the National Young Farmers Coalition (NYFC). NYFC recently completed and released a helpful new farm access tool, the Finding Farmland Course.

The Finding Farmland Course, now available in English and Spanish, includes nine free lessons that prepare farmers to more confidently approach the financial and land tenure decisions related to acquiring a farm or farmland. Each lesson focuses on a different topic and shares insights from experts in that area in the form of guest blog posts and recorded interviews. Each lesson includes additional resources for anyone looking to do a deeper dive. 

Land For Good’s Senior Advisor Kathy Ruhf, and Vermont Field Agent Mike Ghia, contributed to the lesson on Land Tenure Options. The lesson includes an article providing context for our Farm Access Methods Guide:

The fundamental importance of agricultural land tenure is not new. ‘Equitable partition of land is the necessary basis of all self-sustaining agriculture,’ wrote Liberty Hyde Bailey, known as the father of American horticulture, in 1909. Over one hundred years later, how farmers and ranchers access, hold, and transfer farms and farmland is more complex than ever. Traditional methods are no longer adequate. Today’s social and political lenses sharpen the focus on inequities, and complicate solutions.”

Kathy and Mike also dive deeper into the Guide, discussing its purpose and how it can be used to support affordable access:

The purpose of the guide is to provide an organized framework of farm access methods to help farmers make informed decisions. A farmer’s tenure decisions are shaped by values but driven by practicalities. This guide addresses both. The options are organized into three categories based on land tenure realities: ownership now; ownership in the future; and no ownership. And while nearly all transactions fall into one of these categories, each transaction is unique.”

Additional resources include the Farm Access Methods Decision Tool and Land Link Program Directory (.pdf), which includes the New England Farmland Finder

Lessons 3 through 9 feature the following complementary topics and associated experts: 

  • Financial Planning – Chris Wayne, GrowNYC
  • Credit – Dorothy Suput & Julia Shanks, The Carrot Project
  • Financing Options – Cara Fraver, National Young Farmers Coalition
  • Partners – Jim Oldham, Equity Trust
  • Leasing Farmland – Tim Biello, American Farmland Trust
  • Buying Farmland –  Benneth Phelps, Dirt Capital Farmers
  • Farmland Transfers – Liya Schwartzman, California Farmlink

The lessons on Leasing Farmland and Farmland Transfer include additional resources from our toolbox, such as our Elements of a Good Lease and the Farm Transfer Process schematic

The Finding Farmland Course includes a new, interactive Farmland Calculator, which NYFC describes as a:  

unique mortgage calculator designed to teach farmers about their financing options and creditworthiness when buying farmland.” 

The tool enables users to build and compare financing scenarios for farm property purchases, and generate information important for assessing affordability. Users can compare detailed estimates of total costs, monthly payments and input farm business and household financial information to generate affordability metrics. The results are downloadable and can be used in discussions with loan officers, partners or business advisors.

Explore the Finding Farmland Course now and supplement it with Land For Good’s Acquiring Your Farm online tutorial and other resources in our Farm Seekers Toolbox.

If you have questions or need individualized guidance about acquiring farmland, tenure options, leasing or affordability, contact us!

The Finding Farmland Course and Calculator was designed and produced by the  National Young Farmers Coalition in cooperation with the following organizations: American Farmland Trust, California Farm Link, The Carrot Project, Dirt Capital Partners, Equity Trust, Grow NYC, Land For Good,  and was supported by a grant from USDA NIFA’s Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development Program.

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