Across New England, good, available farmland is scarce, expensive and just plain hard to find. Young and established farm seekers alike struggle to buy or rent the land they need to establish or grow their businesses. Yet, many older farmers now face retirement with no one to take over. And increasingly, private, public and institutional landowners seek farming uses for their properties. Connecting seekers and owners of farmland is complicated and challenging.
To address this, farm link 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 the second phase of Land For Good’s Land Access Project (LAP). LAP has been improving programs and policies around land access and transfer in each New England state.
This Collaborative recognizes the close working relationship among New England’s farm link programs, and works to strengthen and promote their services,” says Kathy Ruhf, Land For Good’s Senior Program Director and LAP project director.
The Collaborative includes Connecticut Farm Link, Maine Farm Link, Land For Good and Vermont Land Link. Each member provides a range of services all aimed at one common goal: to help New England’s farm seekers and landowners connect. Each program has a method to post properties and provides a range of services. A program guide highlighting the Collaborative’s farm link programs and services will be available soon. Read our FAQ about farm link programs.
Through cross-postings of farm opportunities, referrals to specialists, joint educational programming and collaborative outreach, NEFLC service providers build awareness, readiness and connections among 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 entire array of services and resources available. Farm link programs are the hub.
NEFLC has developed and improved the New England Farmland Finder website that provides detailed and regularly updated farm property postings, as well as information and guidance about farmland transactions. The site is free for farm property owners or their representatives to post properties directly, and for farm seekers to search and receive updates of new postings.
New England Farmland Finder also serves as a gateway to the Collaborative members, as well as to other organizations that work on land access and transfer, 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.
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.
NEFLC is excited about the way New England Farmland Finder can get more farm properties in front of farmers. However, equally important is that the site connects users with the staff and resources of local programs that can help farmers access land and use it productively.
This work is part of Land For Good’s Land Access Project, funded by a grant from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture through its Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, #2015-70017-23900. Recent work by the Collaborative also received generous support from The Cedar Tree Foundation.