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Landowners and farmers can be good partners

Ernie Vose and his cow, Jewel on his farm in Walpole. Photo by Stacy Gambrel.

Ernie Vose and his cow, Jewel, on his farm in Walpole. Photo by Stacy Gambrel.

Landowners can play a critical role in our local food systems—especially if their land is suitable for farming.

A project led by Cheshire County Conservation District, Monadnock Conservancy and Land For Good found that landowners and farmers can be good partners.

To research this issue, the team surveyed landowners and farmers, conducted focus group sessions and offered farmer-landowner mixers where each group could meet and greet and get technical assistance. One of the biggest challenges for farmers and landowners is finding one another! According to Amanda Littleton, District District Manager at Cheshire County Conservation,

Having the opportunity to collaborate with Land For Good offered our region a suite of resources for non-farming landowners interested in finding farmers to manage their land and farmers who are looking for land. The mixers offered in both Keene and Jaffrey created a forum for sharing and learning. Working with Land For Good is helping the farmland in Cheshire County stay productive for future generations of farmers.

Landowners with conservation easements in New Hampshire’s Monadnock region were asked about their experiences, concerns and desires regarding farming uses of their properties. Some had farming tenants; others were interested in the possibility.

All reported a strong conservation ethic, and saw farming to be consistent with their values, despite some concerns about farming realities. Farmers on conserved land agreed with their landlords that the easement did not constrain their farming activities. They were appreciative of the relationships they had with their landowners. They especially welcomed more secure, longer-term agreements. According to Kathy Ruhf, Senior Program Director at Land For Good,

This project confirms and highlights the importance of conservation-minded landowners in supporting local farming—and farmers. We hope it inspires others.

To highlight these issues, three case studies of successful farming arrangements on Monadnock Conservancy conserved land – Whippoorwill Farm in Marlborough, Darwin’s View in Jaffrey, and Britton Dairy Farm in Walpole – were prepared and compiled in the booklet, Farming on Conserved Land: Stories from Landowners and Farmers.

As one pleased landowner said about leasing her land,

We wish we had more land for them and others. If we don’t protect farmers, we’re all going to lose.

This project is supported by the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program. SARE is a program of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture. Matching support for LFG participation provided by The Cedar Tree Foundation and generous individual donors.

 

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