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 and served as co-director with Bob, until 2012. At that time Kathy 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 owneres. 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.
Under Kathy’s leadership, LFG grew by hiring field staff to work in each New England state. As we deepened our work and collaborations in New England, we also increased our national leadership on these issues. We developed our “systems” perspective on these issues, strengthened our research and policy work and expanded our vibrant board of directors.
In 2013, Jim Hafner was hired as the Deputy Director as part of planned leadership succession strategy. Jim became Executive Director at the beginning of 2015. Kathy became Senior Program Director and retained her role as field agent role for southern New England. Since 2013 the Land For Good team has grown through hiring of program and support staff: Lisa Luciani as Communication Coordinator (2013), Andrew Marshall as Field and Education Director (2014-18), Cris Coffin as Policy Director (2015) and field agents in Connecticut (Rachel Murray 2015-18), New Hampshire (Cara Cargill 2015), Rhode Island (Tess Brown-Lavoie 2016) and Massachusetts (Jason Silverman 2017).
Our full- and part-time team members are distributed across the region. Nearly all have either operated farms, worked as farm laborers, and/or have formal agricultural training. Five currently maintain active farm businesses. Read more about our team.
In just over a decade, due in part to the influence of LFG, land access, tenure and transfer have been widely recognized as top challenges for beginning, established and transitioning farmers. We are seen and sought after as key leaders and partners in our region and nationally. In June 2017, in cooperation with USDA, we organized and hosted Changing Lands, Changing Hands, a national conference on farm and ranch access, tenure and transfer. This was the second national conference with this focus after a similar LFG conference held 8 years earlier.
Late updated 5/17/18