The current challenge facing today’s farmers is accessing farmland that has all of the following characteristics:
- Available: There must be enough land for everyone who wants to farm.
- Appropriate: Land must be suitable for a successful farm operation.
- Affordable: The farmer must be able to purchase or rent the property.
- Accessible: The farmer must have physical and legal access to the land
- Secure: The farmer must have adequate security of use of the land to make investments in the business and the land.
- Equitable: There must be an equitable assignment of land rights and obligations. Farmers’ opportunity to build equity must also be considered.
“Farm link” programs have been around since the late 1980s. Originally, they were intended to help retiring farmers find someone to take over the farm. Recently, “linking” programs have proliferated. These days, the land holding side of the linking equation is not limited to retiring farmers with farms. All kinds of landowners are served.
What do farm link programs do? It depends, but all have the basic intention of helping farmers and farmland find each other. One way to describe the differences among farm linking programs is by the services they provide. “Listing” services are simply that — a list of available farm properties for rent or purchase. Sometimes there is a list of farm seekers as well. The New England Farmland Finder website is an example of a regional farm property clearinghouse that allows landowners to post available farm properties. This service is not a real estate listing, although real estate agents (and others representing landowners) are welcome to post farm properties. “Linking” services typically screen seekers and landowners and provide contact information to the parties based on the screening criteria. Think of a traditional or online dating service. “Matching” services go one step further by actively facilitating connections, negotiations and agreements. Some programs also offer educational materials, training and networking events, and more extensive direct advising. For a more in-depth analysis of farm link programs, see our 2019 publication, Developing & Strengthening Farm Link Programs Guide (or print version). In addition to definitions and frameworks for understanding farm link programs, the Guide compiles promising tactics and successful practices generated from the first-ever National Farm Link Clinic convened by Land For Good in April 2019.
Whether they offer listing, linking or matching services, the bottom line for all farm link programs is to help beginning farmers, other farm seekers, and farmland owners connect with each other and related resources.
More about farm linking in our region
- How To Link To Land in Vermont’s Local Banquet
- 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 linking programs – New England
- New England Farmland Finder
- Connecticut FarmLink
- Maine FarmLink
- New Entry Sustainable Farming Project Farmland Matching Service (Eastern MA)
- Vermont FarmLink
Farm linking programs – beyond New England
- Farm link programs. Farmland Information Center.
- Land Link Directory. (October 2019) National Young Farmer Coalition
- US Land Link Programs list (as of February 2014)
- NEW! 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)