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Land Access Project – Phase II

Access to land is one of the biggest challenges for beginning farmers in New England. LFG’s Land Access Project – Phase II (LAP2), brought together over 40 collaborating organizations, agencies and individual experts. LAP2 (2015 – 2018) received renewal funding from the USDA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program for this three-year regional collaboration. The project took a comprehensive, systems approach to improve programs and policies around land access and transfer in each New England state. Project teams and partners worked with beginning farmers, established and transitioning farmers, landowners, conservation organizations, service providers, communities and policymakers. Together we:

  • Developed & strengthened programs, services, policies
  • Built on professional capacity & networks in each state, our region & nationally
  • Researched, investigated & promoted innovative land access & transfer tools & methods

Tools, Guides & Reports

LAP2 collaborators created these guides, tools, and reports for beginning and established farmers, next generation farmers, and public and private landowners, as well as educators and advisors:

Land For Good launched a Build-A-Lease Tool to educate beginning farmers and landowners about farm leases and generate working lease documents. Farmers and landowners—and the land—benefit from good farm leases. A sound, written farm lease doesn’t have to be complicated, but it should have a solid legal foundation and reflect the interests and goals of both parties.

As part of the Linking Task Force, four organizations with successful farm linking initiatives formed the New England Farm Link Collaborative (NEFLC). Connecticut Farm Link, Maine Farm Link, Vermont Land Link and Land For Good worked together to upgrade and manage the New England Farmland Finder website (NEFF) and conducted user surveys. Along with LAP partners, NEFLC increased user statistics to help more landowners and seekers find resources — and each other. In 2017, NEFF had 267 farm properties active on the site, an 80% increase over 2016; registered farm seekers users on NEFF passed 1400 total for a 42% increase; and an overall 35% increase in new users compared to the previous year.

LAP2 partners also upgraded Farm Transfer Network of New England (FTNNE), a free online resource for transitioning farmers as well as farm transfer advisors. LAP2 partners worked to expand the number of service providers, attorneys and professionals listed as resources in each state.

Education, Training & Advising

Changing Lands, Changing Hands was a national conference on farm and ranch access, tenure and transfer held in Denver CO in June 2017 that brought together over 220 attendees from 40 states to share successful and innovative program, practice and policy ideas. We all learned a lot and came away energized for the work ahead.

One of the biggest hurdles in farm transfer or succession planning is getting the plan done. The New England Farm Succession School hosted by Land For Good (2016 – 2018) helped nearly 30 farms make huge strides toward completing their plans. The course, led by Kathy Ruhf (LFG) and Jon Jaffe (Farm Credit East), brought transitioning farmers and farm couples together for 3 full-day sessions spread over the winter months.

Land For Good hosted a two-day regional Farm Succession Advisors Training (May 2017) to build professional support to assist farm families through succession and transfer planning with nearly 60 participants including experienced and new attorneys, business and financial planners, accountants, land trust and conservation staff, and lenders from across New England.

Task Forces

Building from LFG’s prior Land Access Project – Phase I (2010-2013), LAP2 was structured around task forces and technical teams of service providers and other stakeholders. We also supported land access and transfer networking in each state.

  1. Listing & Linking Task Force developed, improved and better synchronized farm link programs in New England, and reached out to seekers and farmland holders.
  2. Succession & Transfer Assistance Task Force developed innovative curriculum, and provided advice and legal assistance to transitioning farm families through teams of service providers and attorneys. This task force focused on farmers without identified successors and “mid-life” farmers.
  3. Tenure Innovations Task Force continued to explore innovative access and transfer methods, such as paths to ownership, affordable farmer housing, farmland investment models, and conservation tools. It proposed best practices and supportive public policies.
  4. State programs, capacity and networks were strengthened through educational events, services, and professional training.

Collaborators

Strong partnerships are at the heart of this project. Organizations, agency and firms across and beyond the region committed matching funds totaling over $160,000. Together, collaborators developed materials, workshops, services and policy recommendations. They participated in trainings and worked to assist beginning and other farmers and to improve the conditions for successful and access and transfer in New England.

Thanks to these LAP partners and collaborators (listed by Task Force):

Listing & Linking

  • Ben Waterman, UVM Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Task Force Leader
  • Martha Bryan, Berkshire Agriculture Ventures
  • Jennifer Hashley, New Entry Sustainable Farming Project
  • Kip Kolesinskas, Consulting Conservationist
  • Sue Lanpher, Maine Farmland Trust
  • Jamie Pottern, Mt. Grace Land Conservation Trust
  • Cameron Weimar, Connecticut Department of Agriculture

Succession & Transfer Assistance

  • Annette Higby, Task Force Leader
  • Gary Anderson, University of Maine Extension
  • Rebecca Brown, Ammonoosuc Conservation Trust
  • Stacy Burnstein, Intervale Center
  • Paul Dillon, Attorney at Law
  • Rupert Friday, Rhode Island Land Trust Council
  • Kate Kerman, Small & Beginner Farmers of NH
  • Amanda Littleton, Cheshire County Conservation District
  • Kathy Orlando, Sheffield Land Trust
  • Carrie Scrufari, Vermont Law School
  • Lynn Spinella, Rhode Island Farm Bureau

Tenure Innovations

  • Bob Wagner, American Farmland Trust, Task Force Leader
  • Charlene Anderson, NH Community Loan Fund
  • Lisa Bassani, American Farmland Trust
  • Laura Bozzi, Southside Community Land Trust
  • Erica Buswell, Maine Farmland Trust
  • Richard E. Cavanaugh, Esq., Common Grow LLC
  • Nancy Everhart, VT Housing & Conservation Board
  • Noelle Fogg, New Entry Sustainable Farming Project
  • Rupert Friday, Rhode Island Land Trust Council
  • Stacey Gambrel, Monadnock Conservancy
  • Daniel MacPhee, Maine Organic Farmer & Gardeners Association
  • Ian McSweeney, Russell Foundation
  • Jim Oldham, Equity Trust
  • Kathy Orlando, Sheffield Land Trust
  • Jon Ramsay, Vermont Land Trust
  • Holly Rippon-Butler, National Young Farmers Coalition
  • Carrie Scrufari, Vermont Law School
  • Michelle Sheehan, Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management
  • Christine St. Clair, Small & Beginner Farmers of NH
  • Henry Talmage, Connecticut Farm Bureau

Land For Good Project Staff

  • Kathy Ruhf, Project Director
  • Jim Habana Hafner, Executive Director
  • Cris Coffin, Policy Director
  • Andrew Marshall, Education & Field Director
  • Barb Jackson, Operations Manager
  • Lisa Luciani, Communications Coordinator
  • Jan Mackey, Business Manager
  • Jo Barrett, Maine Field Agent
  • Cara Cargill, New Hampshire Field Agent
  • Mike Ghia, Vermont Field Agent
  • Rachel Murray, Connecticut Field Agent
  • Tess Brown-Lavoie, Rhode Island Field Agent
  • Jason Silverman, Massachusetts Field Agent

LAP2 was supported by a grant from the USDA/NIFA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (NIFA #2015-04544).