Island Grown Agricultural NetworkFood & Farms in San Juan County
Photo by: Summer Moon Scriver

Photo by: Summer Moon Scriver

These resources are intended to help new farmers and farmland owners to understand and develop land access and farm transfer tools that are sustainable and profitable for the landowner, the farmer, the community, and the land.

New Farmers

A decision to become a farmer must be thoroughly evaluated including thoughtful consideration and articulation of personal values, short and long term goals, assets, physical capacity, life style preferences, farming experience, among other issues. A successful farmer is resourceful, persistent, and willing to put in long hours to produce food. Development of a business plan is critically important, although a farmers’ ability to succeed is also determined by outside forces including weather and markets.

Consideration of starting to farm could include the following steps:

  1. Thoughtful articulation of why you want to farm – your values, what you love to do, and how farming plays a role in your future
  2. What you want to produce and where you want to farm
  3. Evaluation of your assets including farming experience, financial, equipment, and more
  4. Development of a well researched business plan, including analysis of markets, production costs, land and infrastructure
  5. Careful assessment of land access options – whether you want to lease or purchase, or other variations, and why
  6. Purchase and/or lease of land that will serve your production goals

Accessing land: to purchase or to lease? When considering access to farmland, it is important to consider the pros and cons of leasing compared to purchase. Whether through purchase or lease, secure, long-term land tenure is the foundation of a viable farm. Without long-term tenure, important capital investment to grow and sustain a business will be challenging.

What assets do you have access to? Are you ready to make a long-term commitment by purchasing? Can you find a secure long-term lease arrangement on land that will initially meet your needs? What is your capacity to handle debt? And more.

Starting a Farm

NCAT: Starting a Farm

New Entry Sustainable Farming
Finding, Assessing, and Securing Farmland: A Plain Language Guide from the New Entry Sustainable Farming Project

Acquiring Land for Farming

Land For Good: Acquiring Your Farm
Acquiring Your Farm (AYF) is a free, online tutorial, for aspiring, new and beginning farmers – and others – preparing to access farmland. AYF contains lessons organized around seven topics and designed to provide a thorough introduction to the complex issues of farmland access and tenure. Includes sessions on 1) Farmland Tenure Basics; 2) Financial Assessment; 3) Owning Farmland; 4) Finding Farmland; 5) Leasing Farmland; 6) Communications and Negotiation; 7) Community Partners

Land For Good: Acquiring Land to Farm Guide

Leasing Land for Farming

Land for Good: Elements of a Good Farm Lease

American Farmland Trust: Farmland Leasing: Success for Landlords and Tenants. Fact Sheet

Land for Good: Farmland Tenure and Leasing Legal Guide

California FarmLink: Lease to Own Fact Sheet

California FarmLink: Agricultural Cash Lease Basic Template

Drake University Agricultural Law Center: The Landowners Guide to Sustainable Farm Leases

Equity Trust: Model Agriculture Ground Lease Agreement

Equity Trust: Model Ground Lease Commentary

Land for Good: Sample Short-term Lease Agreement

Farmland Owners: Farm Succession and Transfer Strategies

CA Farmlink: Farmland Succession Guidebook

Land For Good: Where do I start? Transferring the Farm Guide

Land For Good: The Farmland Transfer Process

Land For Good: Successful Farm Transfer Guide for Farmers without a designated successor

Farmland Conservation

Equity Trust: Farms for Farmers promotes alternative ownership structures for farms, to benefit farmers who need affordable farmland and communities that want a secure source of locally grown food and a way to preserve their environmental heritage.

Equity Trust: Model Conservation Easement with Option to Purchase

Working with Land Trusts

Many land trusts throughout the country have protected farmland through 1) direct acquisition for future lease to a farmer, 2) purchase then protection through a conservation easement, then resale; and 3) simultaneous purchase together with a farmer including protection through a conservation easement. Conservation easements may specifically address future farming, or be more general. However, recent studies have shown that agricultural conservation easements do not necessarily ensure that the land is available for future farming.

California FarmLink: Conservation and Affordability of Working Lands: Nine Case Studies of Land Trusts Working with Next-Generation Farmers

Funding for New Farmers and Transitioning Farmers

USDA FSA: Beginning Farmer Loan Programs

National Young Farmers Coalition: Credit and Capital for New Farmers

National Young Farmers Coalition: Crowd Sourcing for New Farmers

Center for Rural Affairs: Beginning Farmer Funding and Financing Options

Center for Rural Affairs: Beginning Farmer Financing Strategies

USDA Farm Services Agency: Guide to Farm Service Agency Farm Loans

USDA FSA: Land Contract Guarantee Program

National Sustainable Agriculture Association: Direct Farm Ownership and Operating Loans

Resource Organizations

The following is a list of organizations that offer workshops, resources, and other support for new farmers and farmland owners seeking to transfer their farms. This is not a comprehensive list as there are many other organizations dedicated to the goal of sustainable farming, including connecting new farmers to farmland.

American Farmland Trust Farmland Information Center
Extensive resource library and information for beginning farmers, farmland succession, farmland conservation and much much more

Land For Good

National Young Farmers Coalition

ATTRA: A National Sustainable Agriculture Assistance Program, developed and managed by NCAT

Equity Trust

California FarmLink

New Entry Sustainable Farm Project