Land Access

In our 2011 report, NYFC identified land access as one of the major challenges beginning farmers face. Across the country, climbing land prices and competition with the development market have made it increasingly difficult for farmers to find land they can afford – over the last decade the average cost of farm real estate has more than doubled. The National Young Farmers Coalition is addressing the issue of land access by providing training and resources to land trusts and farmers, as well as advocating for funding and policies that will help increase farmland affordability. With 70 percent of the nation’s farmland expected to transition in the next two decades, now is the critical time to ensure that this land transitions to the next generation of farmers – and that farmers have access to land for many generations to come!

NYFC offers land access trainings for farmers and land trusts. To learn more or register for an upcoming event, click here:

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The Challenge

  • In the National Young Farmers Coalition’s 2011 survey of over 1,000 farmers across the country, 68% listed access to land as a challenge.
  • Three-quarters of farmers in our 2011 survey didn’t come from farming backgrounds, meaning they aren’t in a position to inherit land.
  • Farm real estate is more expensive than ever—average prices have more than doubled since 2004. In many cases making it is impossible for farmers to pay for their land using agricultural profits alone.
  • Farmland prices are being driven up beyond what a farmer can afford or reasonably pay off on a farm income due to competition from developers and estate, or second home, purchases.
  • Young farmers are entering agriculture with significant debt from student loans and other sources, reducing their ability to access the necessary credit and capital to buy land.
  • Land around urban areas can be more than double the cost of rural land – yet this is where farmers need to be located for their businesses to be successful if they are participating in a direct market model.
  • Two-thirds of all farmland (573 million acres or 63%) will need a new farmer over the next two and a half decades as older farmers retire.
  • 10% of all farmland in the contiguous US and 25% of rented land is expected to transfer ownership in the next 5 years.

Our ability to produce food, support our rural economies, and protect our agricultural land resources as a nation depends on ensuring that young farmers are able to take over management of this farmland.

 

Land Access Innovations Trainings 

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NYFC executive director, Lindsey Lusher Shute, addresses attendees of the 2014 Land Access Innovations Training.

Access to farmland remains one of the biggest barriers that beginning farmers face, but innovation and leadership demonstrated by a number of land trusts has opened up new possibilities for helping these farmers succeed. NYFC believes that these groups have enormous potential to make farmland across the country more affordable and accessible for the next generation of farmers.

Since 2014, the National Young Farmers Coalition has teamed up with experts in farmland conservation to offer a series of Land Access Innovations Trainings across the country. These intensive trainings are aimed at land trust staff and other conservation professionals with a high degree of commitment to protecting working farms and keeping land affordable for farmers.

More information about NYFC’s Land Access Innovations Trainings, including past presenters, can be found here.

NYFC also works with local partners to offer in-depth trainings for farmers on the process of partnering with a land trust to access land along with information on writing strong leases, assessing financial options, and other relevant steps in the land access process.

If you are interested in working with us to hold a Training in your region for land trusts or farmers, contact NYFC’s Land Access Program Director.

To learn more or register for an upcoming event, click here:

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A Farmer’s Guide to Working with Land Trusts

Finding Farmland cover pic - smallIn 2010, NYFC was founded by a group of farmers who were struggling to find affordable farmland to start and grow their businesses. Five years later, we know that accessing farmland is still one of the biggest obstacles young farmers face. Now, we’re excited to release a new resource designed specifically to help farmers connect and partner with land trusts – A Farmer’s Guide to Working with Land Trusts.

Over the past fifty years, land trusts have protected millions of acres of farmland from development. The National Young Farmers Coalition believes that these groups now have a critical role to play in helping the next generation of farmers access land. But young farmers must be proactive! This guidebook illustrates the possibilities for potential partnership with a land trust and offers practical information and tools for approaching your land trust and building the relationship.

UPDATE: This short “Guide to Working with Michigan’s Land Conservancies” serves as a companion to NYFC’s “Finding Farmland: A Farmer’s Guide to Working with Land Trusts” by providing important clarifications and additional details about the Michigan specific context of partnering with a land trust. The new guide also includes additional information about other organizations working in Michigan that can help you in the land access process.

 

Farmland Conservation 2.0

Tahoma farm dan hulse_smallLand trusts have played an essential role in keeping farmland available to farmers by permanently protecting it from development. As our 2013 report showed, however, new market forces are at play – meaning that even conserved farmland is often unaffordable for farmers. Traditional conservation easements are designed to protect farmland from residential and commercial development, but they do not prevent non-farmers from purchasing protected farms as estate properties. In our survey of 200 land trust leaders from across the United States, we found that nearly a quarter had seen protected farmland in their service area taken out of production.

To us, supporting farming as a viable career path means supporting the possibility of land ownership. A small number of innovative land trusts are working towards this goal by using easements that protect the sale of the farm to a qualified farmer at its agricultural value. These models need to be scaled up and implemented by more land trusts across the country. They need support from policy makers at all levels of government, from funders, and most importantly from land trust leaders.

 

Policy Changes

NYFC defines policy as the rules that direct our state and federal agencies as well as govern the way organizations are run. NYFC advocates for policy changes that support young farmers getting access to the land they need in the face of rising land prices, development pressure, and competition from farm consolidation.

Click here to see our land access policy platform.

 

Land Access Case Studies

A Path to Conservation and Farm Viability: Check out our fact sheets below for more information on the steps to take towards land accessibility!

Click on the images below to view PDFs. 

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Step 1: Community Engagement

Step 2: Farmer Services

Step 2: Farmer Services

Step 3: Purchase of Agricultural Conservation Easements

Step 3: Purchase of Agricultural Conservation Easements

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Step 4: Farmland Purchase

Step 5: Farm Viability Programs

Step 5: Farm Viability Programs

 

Barboni Ranch

Want to learn more? Click here to read case studies of farmers and land trusts working together to keep farmland in agricultural production!

 

 


 

Land Access Resources

Please see our Land + Jobs resource page for a list of land linking organizations by region.

Looking for a farm opportunity or have one you would like to post? Visit our Farmers Forum and check out the section on Land Access, where you can find discussion on renting and acquiring land as well as land opportunities organized by region.

Email Holly at holly@youngfarmers.org with any questions, land access stories,  or resources you would like to see included. If you are searching or have land for sale, she maybe be able to help connect you with a local NYFC chapter or other organizations in your region that can assist you.

Resources Library | Agrarian Trust
A large compendium of land access resources, including land access advocacy organizations, legal information, succession planning, networking and service providers, business planning, land access programs, and legislation. 

Access to Land | Farmland Information Center, American Farmland Trust (AFT)
Information about and links to beginning farmer tax credit programs, farmland purchase and preservation programs, farm link programs, incubator farm programs, and farmland protection programs, as well as information and examples of leasing arrangements.

Beginning Farmers | Farmland Information Center, AFT
A collection of information for beginning farmers, including access to land, access to capital, farm business skills, and more beginning farmer resources.

Farmland Protection Directory | Farmland Information Center, AFT
A searchable list of land conservation organizations and state programs.

Toolbox for Farm Seekers | Land for Good
Step-by-step guidance and reports on acquiring land, land access, leases and leasing, and other related links. 

Land Access Project | Land for Good
Information about the Land Access Project’s work, including links to three reports produced: Farmland Access and Tenure Innovations, Does the Option at Agricultural Value Protect Farmland for Beginning Farmers?, and Farmland Investors.

Resources Library | New England Small Farm Institute
A list of resources and Northeast land linking services.

Access to Land | Partnership for America’s New Farmers
An overview of various forms of land access, including benefits and risks, and detailed information about landlink programs, incentives for landowners, social investment, and land trust work. State-level information is available through a searchable map.

A New Generation on the Land | United States Department of Agriculture
An overview of USDA resources and services for farmers seeking land and landowners planning for transition.

Land Access and Tenure Toolshed | University of Vermont
Detailed information about land access, geared towards Vermont but applicable more widely. Includes advice on searching for farmland, a farm assessment checklist, alternative tenure options, lease agreements, financing, and land use regulations.

Cultivating the Next Generation: Resources and Policies to Help the Next Generation Succeed in Agriculture
American Farmland Trust | 2014

Affording OURLAND: A Financial Literary Guidebook for Young Farmers (And All Farmers)
The Greenhorns | 2014

Breaking Ground: A Guide to Growing Land Access for Local Food Farming in Northeast Illinois
Openlands, Liberty Prairie Foundation, Food Land Opportunity | 2016

New England Food Policy Report: Building a Sustainable Food System | Chapter 1: Land
American Farmland Trust, Conservation Law Foundation, & the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group | 2014

Beyond Agricultural Conservation Easements: Ensuring the Future of Agricultural Production
Land Trust Alliance | 2013

Does the Option at Agricultural Value Protect Farmland for Beginning Farmers? A Policy Analysis
Land Access Project, Land for Good | 2013

Farmland Access and Tenure Innovations: Policy and Program Suggestions to Promote Land Access for New England’s Beginning Farmers
Land Access Project, Land for Good | 2013

Farmland Investors: An Exploration for New England and Beyond
Land Access Project, Land for Good | 2013

Land Link Programs in the Northeast US: A Program Assessment and Lessons Learned
Leslie Pillen and Clare Hinrichs, Penn State | 2014

Status of State PACE Programs
Farmland Information Center, American Farmland Trust | 2013

Farm Land Access, Succession, Tenure and Stewardship
UVM FarmLASTS Project | 2010