About Land For Good (LFG)
The future of farming and food security depends on farmers being able to start, grow and sustain their farm operations and ideally pass them on to a successor. Land held by retiring farmers, non-farming landowners and institutional and public entities must be made available, affordable and secure for new and established farmers.
We can work with you in several ways:
- We provide personalized advising to farmers, landowners and agricultural service providers in New England. Our staff can answer a quick question; recommend specific resources or next steps; make informed referrals; or offer long-term coaching to support your farm acquisition or transfer.
- We offer many workshops throughout the year, in person and online, on a wide variety of topics.
- Our website connects you to a rich collection of resources by LFG and others.
- We partner with organizations, agencies, community leaders, researchers and advocates on projects at the local, regional and national scale.
Farmland access refers to the various methods – and challenges – by which farmers can get onto land to farm. Access to farmland is typically achieved through purchase or lease. Groups like Land For Good work to promote traditional and innovative ways for farmers to access farmland.
Access to land is a top challenge for U.S. farmers, especially new and beginning farmers. Farmland is expensive to buy or rent. Housing development encroaches on prime lands. Available land is hard to find because it is often not on the open market. It also may be a mismatch with what farmers need – not appropriate size or infrastructure for their enterprise, perhaps lacking good soils, water, infrastructure, housing or proximity to markets. Purchasing land requires capital investment that may be out of reach. And leases can be insecure, preventing farmers from investing in the land, their operation and the community. Historically disadvantaged groups of farmers face additional systemic land access challenges, including discrimination and cultural barriers.
Tenure means “to hold.” Tenure defines how land rights and responsibilities are allocated. The two main modes of holding rights to land in the U.S. are owning or leasing.
There is no “one-stop shop” for finding available and suitable farmland. It takes diligence, patience and creativity to find the right farm property. It’s important to learn about your options, assess your capacity and goals, and develop a search strategy. Get started on our Farm Seekers page.
Land For Good and other organizations in New England can help with your search. There are also farm link programs that include online postings of farm properties, such as New England Farmland Finder and other members of the New England Farm Link Collaborative. Read more in our FAQ on farm link programs.
Farm Link programs focus on helping farmers and farmland owners find each other. Typically they have a website that posts available farm properties and farm seeker profiles. Many farm link programs also offer workshops, educational materials and technical assistance.
Farm linking programs – New England
Farm linking programs – beyond New England
- Farm link programs. Farmland Information Center.
- Land Link Directory. (October 2019) National Young Farmer Coalition
More About Farm Linking for Professionals
- Developing & Strengthening Farm Link Programs Guide (or print version) for practitioners and advocates of compiled lessons and successful practices from the National Farm Link Clinic (April 2019)
- Rhode Island Land Linking Program: Background Research and Policy Analysis, A report by Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic
- Land Link Programs in the Northeast US: A program assessment and lessons learned
Farm Transfer and Succession
Farm transfer refers to passing a farm business and/or farmland from one generation or owner to another. The transfer could be within family or between unrelated parties. Other terms that are often used are “farm succession” and “farm transition.”
Farm succession and transfer planning is the process of developing a strategy, timeline, and related documents to transfer a farm operation, assets, and/or real estate. A good plan addresses retirement, estate planning, land use, business operations and finance, and management transfer. The foundation of a good plan is goal setting and communications. 75% of farmers do not have a succession plan. Succession planning often takes a year or more, and ideally happens before the senior generation is ready to retire from farming.
Farm succession planning is critically important for all farms. Preparing for such an important transition helps ensure that you achieve goals for the family and the farm. Succession planning can present challenges! There are many angles to consider. The point is to get started and keep going.
Our Farm Succession Planning: Where Do I Start? Workbook is a great place to begin exploring this topic, gather your initial information, and lead you through the various components you’ll need to consider. You will find more in-depth information, including recorded webinars, in our Resources for Transferring a Farm.
Land For Good recommends that you identify a coach to help you through the process and an array of advisors that will assist with advice and implementation of steps along the way. Visit our Transitioning Farmers page to learn how Land For Good can support your planning.
Owners of farmland today are a varied group. Two major categories are those who farm their land (owner-operators) and those who do not (non-farming landowners). Non-farming landowners are made up of private, institutional and public landowners. These include farm inheritors, educational institutions, conservation organizations and municipalities, to name a few.
For many types of farmers, finding land is a challenge. New and beginning farmers seek land to start or scale up their operations. Established farmers may look to expand, relocate, or move from renting to owning. Many farm seekers do not have farm backgrounds or farms to inherit. Immigrant, minority, women, and other socially disadvantaged farmer populations face additional challenges in accessing land to farm.
Once you’ve determined both what your farmland has to offer and what you are looking for in a farmer, you can develop an outreach plan that might include, posting on a farm linking website, advertising with flyers, posting on social media, and utilizing email list-servs. Consider professional support such as what we offer at Land For Good to help you develop your farmer recruitment and selection plan. Read more about how we work with Landowners.
A conservation easement (sometimes known as a conservation restriction) is a legal instrument that removes the right to develop a property. An agricultural conservation easement (ACE) removes development rights except for agricultural uses. Removing these rights protects valuable farmland and also typically reduces the selling price. Some ACEs have additional restrictions such as regarding farming practices.
Lease-to-own refers to methods by which tenants can purchase the property they lease at some future date. One common lease-to-own strategy is an “option to purchase” provision which may be included in the lease or as a separate agreement. It gives the tenant the right–but not the obligation–to purchase the leased premises during a particular time period and according to specific terms. A related strategy is a “right of first refusal” (ROFR) in which a tenant has the exclusive opportunity to make an offer on the property before it is offered to others. A third method that is sometimes seen as a lease-to-own method is a land contract. See our fact sheet Lease to Own for further details.
The categories of short-term and long-term leases are somewhat arbitrary, and really depend on the farmer and the level of security they’re looking for. Short-term typically describes a term of 1-2 years, sometimes up to 5 years. A long-term lease can be 10, 20, 50, or even 99 years, for example. Some states limit the term of an agricultural lease by statute. Typically, longer-term leases are more complex. For additional information, see our fact sheet The Term.
There is no simple method or standard for determining farmland leasing rates. Cash rental rates for farmland depend on the local market, the attributes of the rented parcel, and the landowner.
Investigating the going rates in your area is critical. Landlords and farmers find information on rent from other landlords and producers, agricultural lenders, Farm Service Agency, Extension, Conservation Districts, and real estate agents, for example. In New England, we recommend reaching out to Land For Good for the range that may be most relevant for your area and what to consider.
In general, cropland rental rates are higher than hay and pasture land. New England cropland lease rates can range from $40 per acre/year to $300 per acre/year. If the soil is decent, and there is no infrastructure such as buildings, municipal water, fencing, etc., a reasonable cropland lease rate might be $75-150 per acre/year. There are always exceptions to these ranges, and ultimately a rental rate is dependent on what a landowner feels they need and what a farmers’ business can afford.
For further details, visit our fact sheet Determining the Rent. Additionally, our resources for landowners and farm tenants contain in-depth leasing information and materials, as well as lease templates and our Build-A-Lease Tool.
Owning land conveys maximum property rights and benefits allowed under law. Tenancy–that is, leasing land from those who own it–conveys certain rights, obligations and interests, granted by the owner through a lease. A lease is a legal contract that binds both parties to the terms and conditions to which they agree.