H undreds of farmers have benefited from advising, training and other services of the Land Access Project, phase two (LAP2) across New England. 

Working together, over 40 collaborating organizations have improved farm link programs, explored innovative land access methods, trained numerous advisors, and built state support networks. With core funding from the USDA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, we're now heading into the final months of this three-year collaboration. This collaborative has made significant impacts in our region and nationally

Farmers are making more informed land access decisions and transitioning farmland to a new generation of eager farmersWe invite you to learn more about this important work and see how you can benefit and contribute to it.


Best regards,

Kathy Ruhf
Senior Program Director

LAP Newsletter, Winter 2018

conferenceRead the National Conference Report

Cris Stainbrook, Indian Land Tenure Foundation, Monica Rainge, Federation of Southern Cooperatives, and Maria Moreira, World Farmers Inc, discussed land tenure barriers of the next generations of African American and Native American farmers.
This past June 2017, over 220 people from 40 states convened in Denver, Colorado for our second national conference Changing Lands, Changing Hands. Mining the rich cross-section of agricultural service providers, agency personnel, policymakers and farm advocates, the conference collected successful and innovative program, practice and policy ideas on these topics.  This collection is now available through the  Changing Lands, Changing Hands conference report tha t organizes workshop notes, video interviews, presentation slides and and participant contributions.  Interested in innovative programs for land seekers? Policy suggestions to foster land transfer? How about racial equity challenges in agricultural land tenure, or new approaches to agricultural easements? This report will stimulate your thinking and enrich your networking.

Read more

taskforceFarmers making more informed land access decisions

LAP task forces have improved  programs, services and policies, as well as professional networks in each state, our region and nationally. See how you can plug in to these new tools and programs:
Nationally, there are over 60 self-identified farm link programs! Here in New England, as part of the LAP Linking Task Force, four organizations with successful farm linking initiatives formed the
New England Farm Link Collaborative . 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  and conducted user surveys. The Collaborative designed a property posting guide  to walk landowners through a farm link application with abundant tips for how to best convey their information. Read more 

Tenure Innovations Task Force
Despite increasing interest in urban agriculture, little help exists for farmers to navigate access to land in urban settings. A new guide addresses urban land access for commercial farmers that looks at the unique challenges in locating urban properties, dealing with urban ordinances, soil issues, and landowners, for example. The guide will appear as an article in the upcoming issue of NOFA'S The Natural Farmer and will be available in LFG's farm seeker toolbox this spring. Also, a new Farmland Tenure Methods guide and tool will help farmers sort through their land access options and make informed decisions. The methods are based on farmer's goal and include: ownership now; path to ownership; and non-ownership (tenancy). The guide explores the partners and stakeholders, legal and financial arrangements, equity and legacy provisions, challenges and responsibilities, advantages and disadvantages of each method. Read more 

Succession & Transfer Assistance Task Force
The rich materials they prepared for a recent  training for farm succession advisors are being transformed into a desk reference for succession advisors and attorneys. This online compendium will be an essential part of any succession planning advisor's library. Coming out this spring! M any advisors also asked for an online forum for farm transfer providers to foster continued networking and mentoring of young lawyers. So, we are launching a Google Group to provide  a forum for farm succession advisors  to s hare best practices and expertise, s hare document templates and other resources, p rovide an opportunity to seek advice from an experienced community of practice, and  for experienced practitioners to mentor new practitioners.  Email Annette Higby at  annette.higby@comcast.net  for info. Read more  
 
We're also updating the resources and providers on the  Farm Transfer Network of New England website and adding new materials - and recruiting new providers. If you offer farm transfer services-legal, financial, conservation, management, insurance, or other, let farm families and other providers know about you!  Sign up here
schoolFarm Succession School fills up!

Tess Brown-Lavoie, Rhode Island Field Agent for Land For Good, works with farmers at the Farm Succession School this winter.
One of the biggest hurdles in farm succession planning is getting the plan done. In this second year of the pilot Farm Succession School, 21 farms in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island are on their way to completing their plans. The Succession School, led by Kathy Ruhf (LFG) and Jon Jaffe (Farm Credit East) brought transitioning farmers and farm couples to 3 full-day sessions spread over the winter months. Participants highly value the class size of about six farms which maximizes sharing and peer support.
 
In between sessions, the participants had "homework" such as retirement budgeting and family meetings. By the end of the course, each farm has a binder of accomplishments and a game plan for completing the plan over the following year or so. LFG Field Agents will provide ongoing support. Participants can get credit toward further technical assistance.
 
In Massachusetts, the MA Department of Agricultural Resources offers additional cost share funds for MA farmers who attended the Succession School. What a great way to support succession planning! LFG plans to continue delivering the Farm Succession School, hopefully supported in part by another USDA grant.
advisorsFarmer-advisor observations of LAP

It's always important to ground-truth projects with input and feedback from those who benefit from the work. LAP2 could not do better than our farmer-advisors! Ryan Voiland (MA), Stacy Brenner and John Bliss (ME) and Susan Mitchell (CT) have been steadfast. Ryan weighed in with praise for the New England Farm Link Program Guide, noting that it is of use to staff as well as land seekers and owners. Susan offered great suggestions for further improvements to the New England Farmland Finder website, like requiring more photos, and a direct link to Google Maps. Stacy and John urged us to include plenty of examples to make our tenure guide more practical and less conceptual. Thank you! 
numbersYOUR support has impact 

LAP impacted hundreds of farmers in 2017. Show your support of this important work or get involved. Here are a few of our successes:
  • 179 farm seekers and  67 transitioning farmers received our p ersonalized referral, advising or client services   
  • 202 properties posted on New England Farmland Finder
     for an increase of over 100% from previous year 
  • 1,412 beginning farm seeker users on New England Farmland Finder, over 80% toward the LAP2 goal 
  • Over 500 participants gaining knowledge, skills and connections at 34 land access and transfer workshops hosted by LFG and LAP collaborators across the region
  • Over 3,000 farm seekers used Acquiring Your Farm, our improved online tutorial  
  • Over 118,000 users to landforgood.org for the rich repository of tools, documents and links, a 66% increase over previous year
stateAdvancing land access in your state and across
New England

Jason Silverman, Land For Good's new Massachusett Field Agent
  
From across the region, a group of 50 farmland protection and land access practitioners and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) staff gathered in NH in November to explore common challenges and conditions in state Purchase of Agricultural Conservation Easement (PACE) programs and related tools promoting affordability and access. These include buy-protect-sell projects and options to purchase at agricultural value (OPAVs). Hosted by LFG and American Farmland Trust, the event enabled participants to discuss ways USDA's Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) can be used for farmland protection. We will continue this regional networking in 2018, including the release of a state land access policy compendium this spring.

3rd Annual Maine Land Access Conference

Jim Hafner, Executive Director of Land For Good, with Erica Buswell, Vice President of Programs of Maine Farmland Trust.
In collaboration with Maine Farmland Trust, LFG co-sponsored and organized the 3rd annual Maine Farmland Access Conference in December 2017. With 140 participants, including beginning and retiring farmers, service providers, and landowners, engaged with session topics such as farmland affordability, long-term care planning, dairy viability in New England, innovative land tenure models, and public policy. The day featured a plenary panel with Walter Whitcomb, Maine Commissioner of Agriculture, US Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (ME), Amanda Beal, Executive Director, Maine Farmland Trust, and Jim Hafner, Executive Director of LFG .
farmerbillFederal beginning farmer "marker bills" seek to influence 2018 Farm Bill debate

"Forgotten Farms" documentary film was shown at the U.S. Capitol last month to bring attention to dairy farmers' needs in advance of a new Farm Bill being written this spring. "We're really glad to see that Congress took action on some of those needs, as part of the recent budget deal," said Cris Coffin, LFG's Policy Director. L-R: Cris Coffin; Catherine de Ronde,
Economist, Agri-Mark Dairy Cooperative; Dave Simonds, the film's director;
Senator Patrick Leahy (VT); Lucinda and Darryl Williams of Hatfield's Luther
Belden Farm (MA); and Sarah Gardner, the film's producer.
Two bills have been introduced in Congress recently to address the specific needs of beginning farmers in the next Farm Bill. Among the identified needs is access to land. LFG provided input on both bills, provisions of which we hope will be incorporated into the House and Senate versions of the Farm Bill re-authorization.
 
Both the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act (H.R. 4316) and the Young and Beginning Farmers Act (H.R. 4201) would reauthorize the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program and strengthen its emphasis on land access and farm transfer and succession planning. Both bills increase the Farm Service Agency's direct farm ownership loan limit recognizing the higher cost of land and farm infrastructure in many parts of the country. H.R. 4201 also allows borrowers to get preliminary eligibility and loan limit determinations from FSA, enabling beginners to move faster when a farm property comes on the market. Both bills seek to prioritize agricultural conservation easements that include affordability mechanisms through the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program; H.R. 4201 also makes it easier for land trusts to pursue "buy-protect-sell" projects through ACEP.
 
With the House likely to begin consideration of the Farm Bill in the next month or two, now is a good time for state and local partners to get more informed about these bills and to contact Members of Congress to encourage them to address beginning farmers' needs.

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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 and involves over 40 collaborating organizations, agencies and individual experts in six New England states.
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