Greetings colleagues!

The second phase of the Land Access Project continues the work of over 40 collaborating groups to improve farm access and transfer throughout New England. With renewed funding from the USDA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, we're working to improve farm link programs, explore innovative land access methods, train advisors to assist farm transfers, and build state support networks.

We're sharing news from our project work and related items of interest. We invite you to learn more about this important work and see how you can benefit from -and contribute to it. Watch for notices about workshops, other events, new guides and reports, and more through this three-year regional collaboration.

Cordially,

Kathy Ruhf
Senior Program Director &
Masschusetts Field Agent

Full steam ahead for Land Access Project in year one

Since the December 2015 kick-off, more than 50 project collaborators have been working on a range of fronts with landowners, transitioning farm families, communities, policymakers and a wide range of service providers.
Highlights include:
  • Over 800 beginning farmers, transitioning farmer, landowners and service providers gained knowledge from LAP events
  • More than 45 LAP partner workshops and presentations held across the region since September 2015 
  • Over 40 collaborators are working in task forces, committees and state networks

Contact Andrew Marshall, LFG Education Director, if you have an idea for an event in your state.
States gain traction on land access around New England

An important focus of LAP2 is to encourage and support land access work in each New England state. And a lot is happening around the region.  In Rhode Island , the Department of Environmental Management is finalizing regulations for its innovative Farmland Acquisition Program, offering a new tool to protect farmland and help beginning farmers gain access to land.  In Connecticut , statutory changes enacted this spring now allow the state's Farm Viability grants to support programing around farm succession and land access and expanded the activities supported through the state's FarmLink program.  This fall, Vermont is planning a "deep dive" around farmland investing at its annual Farm to Plate event, and Maine Farmland Trust and partners are hosting a second statewide land access conference.  A New Hampshire commission is developing a statewide land conservation plan that will focus in part on farmland protection and land access, and the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture will be moving forward on a recommendation from the state Food Plan to create a formal state Farmland Action Plan.
 

Contact Cris Coffin, LFG Policy Director, to learn more about these efforts and state networking priorities.
Task Forces on the move! 

Succession Assistance Task Force will hold a 2-day training for attorneys and non-lawyer service providers on farm business succession planning next spring, 2017. Task Force members and others on a planning committee will spend the next 6 months developing training materials, and reaching out to potential attendees. Stay tuned!

A new Farm Transfer Network of New England website is in the planning stages. The updated website will continue to list farm service providers offering farm succession planning services in New England, along with resources for transitioning farm families. 

Three sessions of a 3-day Farm Succession School for farm families will be held over the winter months in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. More details in article below!

The Listing and Linking Task ForceWhat do over 800 farm seekers and landowners have in common? They are subscribed to New England Farmland Finder. Many more use Connecticut Farm Link, Maine Farm Link, New Entry Matching Service (serving parts of Mass), and Vermont Land Link to find properties and farmers. This task force is improving how "farm link" services for New England are working-and working together. Members conducted a user survey of farm link programs, interviewed successful linking programs elsewhere, and strengthened the farm link collaboration. Next steps include improved cross-posting of properties, upgrades to New England Farmland Finder, enhanced coordination of land access services and an ambitious "co-branded" outreach.  Read more  

The Tenure Innovations Task Force  broke into six subgroups. The Farmer Housing, Urban Land Access, Shared Ownership, Paths to Ownership and Conservation sub-committees researched specific issues and techniques identified by the groups. For example, they looked at applying shared equity models in urban settings, advancements in ground leases and cooperative farm tenure. This research will inform the committees' analyses of these issues as they zero in on programs, techniques and recommendations to apply in New England. The Housing sub-committee will hold a convening on October 19th to focus on affordable farmer housing. Read more
Farm Succession School for senior farmers looking toward retirement and farm transition

Planning for farm succession can be challenging. The Farm Succession School is for senior farmers and farm couples looking for a bit of structure and motivation to tackle succession planning.  Program includes presentations, group discussions and individual exercises.  Three locations this year in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. School is open to farmers in all New England states. Instructors include  Jon Jaffe (Farm Credit East) and Kathy Ruhf (Land For Good), with attorneys Paul Dillon (ME), Beth Boepple (NH) and  Annette Higby (VT) . Help spread the word and download the flyer.
Farm Succession School will be offered in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island in 2017-2018.
Land access in the next Farm Bill

Farm organizations around the country are already laying the groundwork for the 2018 Farm Bill. As part of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), Land For Good is leading a national work group looking at ways the next Farm Bill can better support land access for beginning farmers and ranchers-including farm transfer and working with farmland owners. 

Work group recommendations will be developed into legislative language and included in a beginning farmer "marker bill" planned for introduction in early 2017. U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree was a featured speaker at the summer NSAC meeting in Orono, Maine where she highlighted the importance of addressing beginning farmers' needs in the next Farm Bill .
Beginning farmer grants work on land access in New England

Congratulations to New England BFRDP projects! Southside Community Land Trust (SCLT) and Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) were awarded three-year USDA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program grants for projects that include a land access or transfer component. SCLT, based in Providence RI, will convene a Land Transfer Working Group to execute a "land transfer strategy" that will help urban, socially disadvantaged and incubator farmers purchase or lease farmland in RI. CISA and five other Massachusetts "buy local" groups will support beginning farmers to acquire land via 1:1 technical assistance from LFG field agents.

These new BFRDP projects join an impressive New England group: MOFGA and Cultivating Community also have a land access component in their BRFRDP projects. University of Connecticut and University of Vermont just received BFRDP awards. American Farmland Trust's 2015 national BFRDP project will train "land access trainers" across the country. National Young Farmers Coalition new BFRDP project will develop a "land affordability calculator."

Land For Good is a partner, advisor or consultant on nine BFRDP projects that have land access components. Five of those are national or outside New England. At the recent national meeting of BFRDP project directors, LAP director Kathy Ruhf polled Northeast projects. Every project present had a land access element or identified land access as a top issue.

Read more

Do you have ideas for a land access project and BFRDP? Contact Jim Hafner or Kathy Ruhf about collaboration.
National profile of land access on the rise

USDA is conducting a series of regional forums on Land Access and the Next Generation of farmers. LAP project director Kathy Ruhf is an invited panelist for the Northeast forum to be held at Cornell University on October 3. The forum will include opportunities for public comment and discussion. Visit this USDA website for details on attending.
 
USDA's National Small Farms Conference will be held September 20-22 in Virginia Beach. Over 500 service providers from across the country will attend. LFG will give a pre-conference training on land access and farm succession.
 
National Farmers Union will hold an innovative, interactive virtual conference for beginning farmers December 5-8 from 5-8 p.m. Growing for the Future will address a range of issues including land tenure.
 
U.S. Farmland Ownership, Tenure and Transfer ,   a report on the TOTAL survey by USDA/ERS, has just been released. ERS researchers examine the data from the 2014 survey and discuss historical trends and current agricultural land tenure patterns. Among the topics in this timely report are types of landlords and rental agreements, methods of land acquisition and transfer, and programs and policies that promotes land accessibility. The TOTAL survey and this report are further evidence of USDA's keen interest in land issues for beginning and other farmers. Check it out!

Save the date for our  National Land Access Conference to be held June 13 - 16, 2017 in Denver, Colorado.  The LAP national planning committee is already at work to shape this event targeted to service providers, agency personnel, policymakers and advocates. Mark your calendar!
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The Land Access Project is funded by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture through its Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, Grant # 2015-04544. The project is directed by Land For Good in partnership with over 40 collaborating organizations, agencies and individual experts in six New England states.
Land For Good | 39 Central Square, Suite 306, Keene, NH 03431 | 603.357.1600