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Farmland FAQ

FOR FARM SEEKERS and FARM OWNERS

How do I work with The Land Connection?

It’s easy!  Simply contact us and let us know what your situation is. We offer initial consultation at no cost.  For more in-depth assistance we charge a fee-for-service, but can usually offer cost-share and sliding scale arrangements. We welcome consulting and project collaborations and contracts with organizations and communities across the Midwest and beyond.   

Why is farmland so important, and what’s the connection between farm transfer/succession and farmland access for new farmers?

Farmland is where food comes from, and the future of farming and food depends on farmers being able to start and build successful farms.  The future of farming also depends on generational transfer of land.  For many generations, land was passed down within a farming family, but now land held by retiring farmers, non-farming landowners and institutional and public entities must be made available and affordable to new and established farmers if we are to have another generation of farmers stewarding the land and providing us with foods.   

Who are farm seekers?  
Farm seekers are new and beginning farmers who want to access land for the first time or scale up their operations, as well as established farmers who want to expand or relocate their farms. Access to farmland is a top obstacle for new and beginning farmers, according to surveys by the National Young Farmers Coalition (2011) and the American Farm Bureau (2013). The traditional pattern of farm succession (younger male farmers inheriting a farm) no longer holds. The most common method of land acquisition for beginning and established farmers is from a non-relative (USDA, 2013). Immigrant, minority, women and other non-traditional farmer populations face additional challenges in accessing land to farm.

What are the challenges and barriers to farmland access?

Every person, family, and farm situation is different, but one of the main challenges facing farmers today is accessing farmland that has all of the following characteristics:  

  1. Available: There must be enough land for everyone who wants to farm.
  2. Appropriate: Land must be suitable for a successful farm operation.
  3. Affordable:  The farmer must be able to purchase or rent the property.
  4. Accessible:  The farmer must have physical and legal access to the land
  5. Secure:  The farmer must have adequate security of use of the land to make investments in the soil and infrastructure, and in the business and the land.
  6. Equitable:  There must be an equitable assignment of land rights and obligations.

Farmers’ opportunity to build equity must also be considered.

For Farm Owners

What is farm transfer planning and why is it important?

Farm transfer planning is a way to decide what you want to happen with your farm operation and assets in the future.  Without such a plan, unpredictable and unpleasant things can happen.  Yet most studies and surveys, including The Land Connection’s own, find that the great majority of farmers do not have a farm transfer plan. Such a plan can be simple or complicated, but generally involves several components such as a retirement and estate plan, land use plan, business plan, and management transfer plan. Eventually, you will talk with professionals (tax attorney, estate planners, financial planners) to finalize your plan, but your planning process should start by laying a solid foundation of goal setting and communications. The Land Connection can help you start this process.

What is farm succession, and how is it different from farm transfer?

Although these terms are often used interchangeably, farm succession refers to the transfer of the farm business operation, as opposed to the farm real estate assets. Traditionally, the term referred to the transfer of the farm to another generation within the family. That is happening less frequently, so succession also now refers to finding a new farmer to take over a farm operation, while the heirs retain the land and other real estate assets.  This kind of succession is becoming more popular as non-farming landowners decide they want their farm to express their stewardship values.   

How do I find a sustainable or organic farmer to work my land?

First write out a brief description of what you have to offer (how much land, its characteristics and past use, location, infrastructure, etc).  Then write out a brief description of what you are looking for in an ideal farmer.  Then create a plan to disseminate those descriptions through word of mouth, at meetings, on bulletin boards (churches, coffee shops), and by posting on websites such as The Land Connection’s classifieds page.  You may also consider professional support on a fee for service basis from The Land Connection to help you develop your farmer recruitment and selection plan. We can also match a new farmer with a mentor farmer, which is particularly helpful for those going through organic transition for the first time.
 

For Farm Seekers

How can I find land to farm?

We’re sorry, but there is no cookie-cutter answer to this question, and no “one-stop shop” for finding farmland. Rather, it takes perseverance and creativity to find the farm that’s right for you.

But there are many things you can do to better your odds that build your capacity to acquirefarmland. Get started onThe Land Connection’s Classifieds and Resource pages, and also Land for Good’s Farm Seekers page.  There are also Farm Link programs in many states.

US Land Link Programs: A list of US based programs as of February 2014

A national list maintained by the National Young Farmers Coalition

Who are land owners and how do I find them?

Owners of farmland today are a varied group, but in general they can be divided into two categories: those who farm their land (owner-operators) and those who do not (non-farming landowners). Non-farming landowners are private, institutional, and public landowners of many descriptions, including farm inheritors, educational institutions, conservation organizations, land trusts, churches, and municipalities, to name a few.  Because 98% percent of farm landlords in the U.S. are not farmers, the best way to find them is to start letting everyone in your community know you’re looking for land.  Chances are most of those people own land or know someone who does.