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.
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:
- Thoughtful articulation of why you want to farm – your values, what you love to do, and how farming plays a role in your future
- What you want to produce and where you want to farm
- Evaluation of your assets including farming experience, financial, equipment, and more
- Development of a well researched business plan, including analysis of markets, production costs, land and infrastructure
- Careful assessment of land access options – whether you want to lease or purchase, or other variations, and why
- 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 http://nesfp.nutrition.tufts.edu/sites/default/files/uploads/pl_farmland.pdf
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
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
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
New Entry Sustainable Farm Project