Across New England, good, available farmland is scarce, expensive and just plain hard to find. While young and established farm seekers struggle to buy or rent land, many older farmers are facing retirement. And increasingly, private, public and institutional landowners seek farming uses for their properties. One of the most critical and complicated challenges is connecting land seekers with land owners.
Farm link and land access programs across the region recently formed the New England Farm Link Collaborative (NEFLC) to provide and coordinate a variety of farm link services for farmers and landowners across the region. The collaborative is an outcome of Land For Good’s Land Access Project (LAP) that is improving programs and policies around land access and transfer in each New England state.
The collaborative is comprised of three state farm link programs (CT, ME, VT), and a regional land access program that works to connect and support seekers and farmland owners looking to lease or to sell.
This collaborative recognizes the close working relationship among New England’s farm link programs, and works to strengthen and promote their programs,” says Kathy Ruhf, Land For Good’s Senior Program Director and project director for LAP.
The collaborative includes Connecticut Farm Link, Maine Farm Link, Vermont Land Link and Land For Good. Each member provides a range of services all aimed at one common goal: to help New England’s farm seekers and landowners connect. A program guide highlighting the collaborative’s farm link programs and services will be available soon.
What is a farm link program? Farm link programs seek to connect farm seekers and farmland owners interested in putting or keeping land in active farming. Each program has a method to post properties as well as different services they provide. Read more about farm link programs.
Through cross-postings of farm opportunities, referrals to specialists, joint educational programming and collaborative outreach, NEFLC service providers build awareness and connections to support farm seekers, farmers and landowners of all types in all New England states. Farmers often move across state lines to find the right property so a regional, collaborative approach makes sense. NEFLC makes it easy for farmers to get a look at what properties are available throughout New England while also directing farmers and landowners to the whole array of services and resources available. Farm link programs are the hub.
A significant focus of NEFLC has been the creation and improvement of the New England Farmland Finder website that provides detailed and regularly updated farm property postings, as well as information and guidance about farmland transactions, such as land assessment worksheets and fact sheets on lease rates.
New England Farmland Finder also serves as a gateway to each state’s farmland linking organizations so that people can connect with the local professionals who can help them as they move forward. The site currently has over 130 farm properties posted, and nearly 1,000 users registered as farm seekers. NEFLC is excited about the way the website can get more listings in front of people, but it’s equally important that they get all of the site’s visitors connected with the staff and resources from local programs to help access land and use it productively.
I was searching for that dream opportunity. We were new, and were looking for land to farm all over New England, ” says Andrew Smith, a new vegetable farmer who is now raising vegetables on leased land in Rhode Island.
Andrew used New England Farmland Finder so that he could see as much as possible of what was available. He made contact with the owners of properties across the region, but ended up leasing property near where his family home in Newport is, an unexpected but happy outcome of his search.
Sue Lanpher of Maine Farmland Trust, who hosts Maine Farm Link, a member of NEFLC, recalls her recent work with Eric and Alison Rector, Maine landowners and homesteaders who were seeking to bring young farmers onto their land as they prepared for retirement.
The Rectors were wonderful to work with. As farmers themselves, they knew what would work for the farm, and what would fit in their succession plan, so they were mindful in their screenings with interested farm seekers. They had set a lot of things in motion already for the farm’s future and I think that aided them in their positive link with the young farmers now on their land,” Lanpher said.
The Land Access Project is supported by a grant from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture through its Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, #2015-70017-23900. The collaboration is one outcome from Land For Good’s Land Access Project, funded by the USDA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program.