In March, The National Young Farmer Coalition (NYFC) completed their largest D.C. farmer fly-in ever. As part of NYFC’s Land Advocacy Fellowship, Will O’Meara, our Connecticut Field Agent, was among 100+ farmers from across the country who led 159 meetings with members of congress and their staff to advocate for land access for the next generation of farmers, specifically new, beginning, young, BIPOC and first generation farmers. The NYFC’s One Million Acres Campaign is calling on Congress to make a historic investment in the 2023 Farm Bill to facilitate equitable access to one million acres of land for the next generation.
Below Will shares a reflection of his land access journey as Co-Founder and Farm Manager of Hungry Reaper Farm, which led him to working with us at Land For Good, and eventually becoming a NYFC Land Advocacy Fellow. (Read more of Will’s land access journey.)
Land Access Now
by Will O’Meara, Connecticut Field Agent
Land access is the issue that pulled me into the NYFC fold back in 2015 when I started attending events with the New Connecticut Farmer Alliance. So many of us had gained the skills, knowledge, and experience to manage and own our own farms, but secure access to land was the missing link. Eventually, our struggle with finding land led me to my work with Land For Good, helping farmers navigate complex systems of financing, lease negotiation, land conservation, and farm succession.
At the same time, we were lucky to find a subleasing opportunity with Truelove Farms in Morris, CT. In our first three seasons, though, we would go on to lose two leases and farm on three separate properties. Our insecure land tenure cost us far more time and money than an identical operation operating with land security. Farmers often lose leases on a whim, and across Connecticut and the nation, farmland is one of the fastest growing investment classes, which in turn makes farmers one step removed from implementing their management and stewardship practices. We are fortunate to hold a long-term lease with a purchase option with a farmland investor that holds food system development, conservation, and community scale agriculture as a value.
My time in D.C. was inspiring and invigorating. NYFC and its members are holding complexity as we fight for Land Access Now while also acknowledging the need for #landback, and for building solidarity between black, brown, indigenous, queer, white, poor, urban, rural, and under resourced farmers. Our goals and imperatives with regard to the climate crisis, resilient food systems, social, racial, and economic justice, and a viable agricultural economy all demand land access with every tool and strategy available.