Contents

I. Introduction

II. Methods of Access

III. Policies for Increasing Access

IV. Additional Resources

I. Introduction

Land prices have seen a dramatic increase throughout the country. Record commodity prices, development near burgeoning metropolitan areas, and demand for recreational and scenic property have increased the difficulty for new farmers to access land in nearly every state.

There are, however, a variety of ways new farmers can access land. Its important for new farmers and new farmer organizations to understand the unique legal issues associated with different methods of land access, existing assistance programs, and how individuals and organizations can provide further assistance. Much of this information can be accessed through the following links.

Feature Resource: Leasing to New Small Farmers

Interviews with new farmers, aspiring farmers, and other experts help shed light on potential benefits of leasing to small diversified farmers.

II. Methods of Access

Image of Custom Farm ContractCustom farming, in which farmers provide labor and receive a set payment for services, can provide a relatively low capital way for beginning farmers to get a start. It may be particularly attractive to new farmers with access to equipment and seeking a start in “production” agriculture.

Land sale contracts allow new farmers to make periodic installment payments in order to purchase land directly from a landowner without going through formal lending institutions.  This method has significant benefits for both parties, but also comes with substantial risks.

Leasing is one of the most popular methods for new farmers to access land. There are a wide variety of farm leases, and the terms of a lease can be tailored to meet the specific needs of a new farmer while maintaining a profitable lease arrangement for the landowner.

Estate planning can play a critical role in supporting new farmers, as well as ensuring the continuation of existing farm operations. This can involve creating a will, placing land and other farm assets in trust, or planning gradual farm transfers during the life of the landowner.

III. Policies for Access

Landlinks & Transition Assistance

These programs match new farmers and landowners and are administered by a variety of organizations, including non-profits, government agencies, and extension offices. Some matching programs include mentorships with retiring farmers as part of the transition process.

Incentives for Landowners

Landowners are literally the gatekeepers. Many express a desire to help beginning farmers but may be reliant on farm rental income and see entering a contract with a new farmer as a risky endeavor. There are state and federal programs that can provide financial incentives.

Tapping Social Investments

Social investors often support new farmers by purchasing land and then renting it to a new farmer. The leases are usually for several years, may contain an option to purchase, and often include specific provisions in relation to management and conservation.

Manipulating Land Values

There are also attempts to improve land access by simply reducing the land’s value to a level that makes it more affordable to new farmers. This is most often done by organizations that acquire the land and then put in place an agricultural easement or sell the development rights.

IV. Additional Resources

Links to other organizations and resources about specific land access documents and policies are available through the sections above. There are some organizations that specialize in land access and provide additional comprehensive insight on land access issues for new farmers on a national or international scale. A few of these organizations and resources are listed here. Those focusing on a state or region can be accessed through this site’s “State Resources” page.

Organizations

The International Farm Transition Network (IFTN) is the largest organization of LandLink programs. Its mission is “to support programs that foster the next generation of farmers and ranchers.” The organization recognizes the need for diverse regional approaches but also seeks to ensure programs are sustainable and deliver adequate technical assistance and resource information.

Publications

FarmLASTS, from the University of Vermont

  • A nation wide effort to explore and address concerns of FarmLand Access, Succession, Tenure and Stewardship.
  • The online manual contains research results as well as recommendations.
  • The site also contains a land tenure curriculum for beginning farmers and farm seekers.