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April 2024—Farmland Access Hub Newsletter

By Bonnie Warndahl


Farmland Access and Tenure Overview by Kathy Ruhf, Land for Good 


On March 22nd, the Farmland Access Hub hosted a virtual event with Kathy Ruhf, co-founder and senior advisor of Land for Good, to paint us a detailed picture of farmland access and tenure in the United States. In this 1-hour, 24-minute recorded webinar, Ruhf offers a stunningly informative (and jam-packed!) overview of all things farmland access. Having done this work in the Northeastern United States for over 35 years, she truly has a wealth of knowledge and we are grateful to have captured this invaluable resource.


Whether you are a farmland owner, a farmland seeker, a service provider working in the farmland access realm, or just simply interested in gaining a better understanding of why farmland access is critical to food sovereignty and healthy local food systems, be prepared to pick your jaw up from the floor after this powerful presentation. Just be warned—this is a deep-dive you will likely need to watch more than once to fully absorb. 


Watch the video now!




Or access the presentation here, including a full resource list that Ruhf covers in the expanded comments! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h6yoPHbDJvE



Farm Transition Success Story—An Intergenerational Passing of the Baton by Climate Land Leaders Blog


The Vermeersch family is gradually taking over ownership of a farm in Red Oak, Iowa. Photo taken from Climate Land Leaders' Blog.


It’s always a joy to share a farmland access or transfer success story! Thanks to the Climate Land Leaders blog for putting this happy little nugget out into the world. Maggie McQuown and her husband Steve Turman own Resilient Farms in Red Oak, Iowa. They are gradually passing their farm on to non-related farmers Matt and Jocelyn Vermeersch of Mud Ridge Ranch.


Maggie states in the post, “We are setting up the business entities and structures needed for the transition—real estate LLC, revised personal estate documents, house and farmland leases, plus a farm operations LLC. We plan to work together for a one-year trial rental period, after which we’ll really start to merge businesses. Steve and I are also in the process of protecting the farm with a Sustainable Iowa Land Trust (SILT) conservation easement. In 2024 Steve and I will continue to maintain and enhance the prairie and other conservation projects on the farm while working with Matt and Jocelyn on their fence, water, infrastructure, and pasture projects. This is totally a joint venture; we meet weekly to share goals, accomplishments, and work plans.”


Read more about how the merging of these two farms is successfully executing a land ownership transfer here: https://climatelandleaders.org/an-intergenerational-passing-of-the-baton/



Farmland for the Future: Preservation Programs Help Farmers Continue to Own and Access Viable Land by Jessianne Castle, Edible Communities


The search for a successor for Hoch Orchard continues! Check out this article by Edible Communities regarding the detailed Buy-Protect-Sell process Hoch Orchard & Gardens is in process with through American Farmland Trust and Renewing the Countryside.


[Left: Hoch Orchard apples at sunset. Photo courtesy of Harry and Jackie Hoch]

​​“That was the start of what has been a wonderful partnership [between Renewing the Countryside and AFT],” Joannides says. “Alison [Volk] and her team are so willing to think outside of the box and explore what is best for the farmers involved, while also ensuring the land is protected. AFT brings so much experience and knowledge to the table, as well as national reach. We, on the other hand, understand the local farming ecosystem and have gained, over the years, the trust of many farmers and communities, which is important when forging these pathways.” ~Jan Joannides, Renewing the Countryside

Read the full article here:





 

Farmland Access Policy


PRESS RELEASE


AFT Applauds Introduction of New Bipartisan, Bicameral Legislation to Support Transfer of Farms to Next Generation 

By Tim Fink


(Washington, D.C.) On March 21st, Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Mike Braun (R-IN) and Representatives Yadira Caraveo (D-CO), Trent Kelly (R-MS), Don Davis (D-NC), and Zach Nunn (R-IA) introduced the Farm Transitions Act, legislation that will help address barriers faced by young and beginning farmers and ranchers. 


“One third of the country’s total agricultural land will change hands over the next twenty years as the current generation of farmers retire,” said Tim Fink, Policy Director for American Farmland Trust. “Ensuring that this land remains in agriculture and creates opportunities for new farmers will require deliberate policy. AFT applauds the introduction of the Farm Transition Act which will help identify the barriers and the solutions needed to enable these farms and ranches to transfer to the next generation of producers.” 


Despite this immense looming transfer of land, accessing and affording quality farmland is still the number one challenge for young, beginning, and historically underserved farmers and ranchers. This is fueled by near record land prices caused by greater competition with investors, well-established farmers, as well as developers. Last year, USDA reported that between 2009 and 2023, land values increased by a staggering 107 percent.   


Also fueling this challenge is the continued loss of productive farm and ranch land across the U.S. largely due to scattershot development. AFT’s Farms Under Threat: The State of the States study showed that between 2001 and 2016, 11 million acres of farmland and ranchland were acres of agricultural land were paved over, fragmented, or converted to uses that jeopardize agriculture. Continued loss of productive farm and ranch land impacts not just the availability and affordability of land for next generation farmers and ranchers, but also the nation’s ability to combat climate change, provide economic opportunities in rural communities, and address national and global food security.  


The Farm Transitions Act will re-authorize and update the Commission on Farm Transitions, which was created by the 2018 Farm Bill—but never implemented. The 10-member Commission will be tasked with: 


Studying the barriers to transferring land and agricultural assets to next generation producers, including the ability to transfer, inherit, or purchase land. 

Examining the effectiveness of current agricultural asset transfer strategies and programs, and assessing the impact of current tax policy on transfers.  


Identifying barriers faced by next generation producers, including the availability of land, credit, apprenticeships, business training, and technical assistance. 


Considering the impacts of broader farmland ownership trends such as farm consolidation and foreign ownership, and the challenges associated with owning heirs’ property.  

Developing recommendations to Congress to help retiring and aspiring farmers overcome these challenges and barriers.  


“Our nation’s future depends upon the next generation of farmers and ranchers being able to access land” said Emily Liss, AFT’s Farm Viability Policy Manager. “The Farm Transitions Act will help build understanding of the barriers to entry that they face, so that Congress can create effective, targeted policy solutions.”  


Alongside AFT, the legislation has been endorsed by National Young Farmers Coalition, Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation, and Wisconsin Farmers Union. 


American Farmland Trust is the only national organization that takes a holistic approach to agriculture, focusing on the land itself, the agricultural practices used on that land, and the farmers and ranchers who do the work. AFT launched the conservation agriculture movement and continues to raise public awareness through our No Farms, No Food message. Since our founding in 1980, AFT has helped permanently protect over 7.8 million acres of agricultural lands, advanced environmentally-sound farming practices on millions of additional acres and supported thousands of farm families.


Who Benefits When Emerging Farmers Can’t Succeed?

LSP BLOG


In the Upper Midwest, Minnesota is the only state to have implemented a down payment assistance program for beginning and historically underserved farmers. Designed to provide financial assistance for those who have generally faced barriers in accessing capital to purchase land, the program is now under threat as a discrimination lawsuit—initiated by a California law firm—attempts to undermine this desperately needed resource. 


In the LSP Blog about this situation, Amanda Koehler writes, “Lawsuits like this are a distraction from what we should really be asking: Why are we allowing industrial agriculture to swallow up a massive majority of public funding in our farm and food system while the rest of us are left fighting over the crumbs?” 

Read more about the lawsuit and LSP’s work at the link below. 



 

Your Farm’s Future Steward: What to consider before making your land available to the next generation


In February the Farmland Access Hub hosted two webinars (identical in content, just held at different times) for farmland owners to aid them in making decisions about the future stewardship of their land.


Designed for “entry-level” landowners considering passing on the farm, the goals were to provide a deeper understanding of farmland access, transfer, and preservation challenges, offer resources for farm legacy and succession planning, provide a successful example of non-family farm transfer (thanks to Chris Burkhouse for telling her story!), and allow ample time for questions and discussion. This webinar is now available as a resource on the Hub’s website—and the link is provided below. Please share widely with your friends, family, and networks!






New Farmer U Survey


NEW FARMER U — Minnesota.


You’ve been to all the conferences. You’ve heard all the presentations. But, do you sometimes feel like the presentations are designed for a slightly different audience? Maybe meant for farmers a little further along the path? 


Come level the playing field at New Farmer U! This conference is designed for the beginning farmer with ample time for questions and discussion that meets you where you’re at. Experience content customized just for you.


Do you want to learn how to find the highest profit margins on what you grow? Are your markets performing for you, or is it time to make adjustments? Need to scale up but you’re not sure how? Which skills and resources do you still need to establish or continue a viable farm business? 


New Farmer U will take place in the winter of 2024 in Minnesota and we want to know where, when, and what you would like to learn more about. Please take the survey below and let us know which topics you want to learn about!


Experience a conference designed for farmers who have been operating for less than ten years. Learn from experts and—maybe more importantly—other farmers just like you. Good food, fun, and networking time included!



A program in partnership with Marbleseed and Renewing the Countryside. New Farmer U is supported by NIFA, USDA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (2020-49400-32787).


 

UPCOMING EVENTS


Spanish-Language Farmland Access Workshops 


LSP is hosting a trio of Spanish-language workshops on farmland access in the coming weeks. Two Zoom workshops will serve as an introduction to the topic of land access for Spanish-speaking farmers and aspiring farmers. The third workshop will take place in-person, providing a deeper dive into the topics of renting, owning, and maintaining farmland. Here's the schedule:

 

- April 14, 6 p.m.-7 p.m.: Introduction to farmland access, Zoom online 

- April 18, 6 p.m.-7 p.m.: Introduction to farmland access, Zoom online

- April 27, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.: Deep dive into renting or owning farmland, in-person, Northfield, Minnesota

 

For more information and to register, e-mail Alondra.

 

¡LSP está organizando talleres de acceso a la tierra en español! Dos talleres serán por Zoom y servirán como introducción al tema de Acceso a la Tierra para agricultores que hablan español. El tercer taller se llevará a cabo en persona y será una inmersión más profunda sobre el tema de como adquirir, alquilar, y mantener tierras agrícolas. Las personas que estén interesados en asistir pueden participar en todos los talleres.

 

- Taller #1 por Zoom – Introducción al acceso a tierras agrícolas. Domingo 14 de abril, de 6 p.m. a 7 p.m.

- Taller #2 por Zoom – Introducción al acceso a tierras agrícolas. Jueves 18 de abril, de 6 p.m. a 7 p.m.

- Taller #3 Presencial – Profundización sobre como comprar, alquilar, o mantener una propiedad de tierras agrícolas. Sábado 27 de abril de 10 a.m. a 3 p.m. en Northfield, Minn.

 

Asegúrese de registrarse enviando un correo electrónico a Alondra a latierra@landstewardshipproject.org.


Connecting Entrepreneurial Communities Conference—Platteville, WI—May 30–31


Overview: Gathering economic development practitioners, local decision-makers, and community champions, the Connecting Entrepreneurial Communities Conference features presentations and technical programming to help small towns create environments in which entrepreneurs can thrive.




Included in this conference will be a panel discussion on Farmland Access and its impact on agripreneurs with Farmland Access Navigator Brett Olson of Renewing the Countryside. 

Please also consider visiting Renewing the Countryside’s booth to learn more about the Farmland Access Hub, Farmland Access Navigator program, and other RTC programs that support farmers and local food systems. 



Applications Open—Harvesting Our Potential: A Mentorship Program for Women, Non-binary, and Genderqueer Farmers



In 2013 I was living a dual life in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area—a pre-school teacher by day and freelance musician by night. At that time, however, and at 32 years of age, my deepest desire was to be a farmer. But how? I knew no one in farming circles and had no idea where to begin. I began searching for internship opportunities without success—until one day I stumbled upon the Women Food & Agriculture Network (WFAN) and learned about their program called Harvesting Our Potential (HOP). Back then, HOP was Iowa-based and paired up aspiring farm women with experienced farm women for a 10-week mentorship. Although I wasn’t living in Iowa, they still had openings near the end of the season and adopted me as an honorary Iowan with the disclaimer that “I lived close enough.” 


Off I went to Atlantic, Iowa for a crash course in small-scale organic farming with Denise O’Brien, who remains my good friend and mentor. When I returned to Minnesota later that November there were some new tools in my proverbial toolbox and some resources to help me piece together a plan. I was empowered. 


I am grateful for that opportunity. It was the start of my journey as a farmer and a farm-owner. Because of my mentorship, and because of WFAN, I met many positive human influences and received critical education that was instrumental in my success—which is why I am more than happy to share about and promote the application opening of this amazing program. See below what WFAN has to say about it and access the application link.





The Women, Food, and Agriculture Network is currently accepting applications for their Harvesting Our Potential farmer mentorship program. 

Here are a few more details about our mentorship program: 

  • WFAN partners seasoned and beginning women, non-binary and genderqueer farmers for mutually supported, targeted mentorships during the growing season

  • Mentorships can be on-farm, remote, or a hybrid mix for a minimum of 8 weeks.

  • Mentors work side by side with mentees to set mentorship goals that work for their lives, experiences, and farm types

  • Mentees receive support through a program stipend and additional education funding opportunities 

If this feels like an exciting opportunity, WFAN is accepting mentee applications through June 1st!  



 

Interested in making your land available to farmers?


Are you a landowner interested in renting your land or selling/transitioning your farm to the next generation? You may want to consider featuring your farm’s profile on the new “Transitions” page on the Farmland Access Hub website. It is our hope that this page will become a central resource in the Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa tri-state area for farmland owners hoping to connect with interested farmers regarding the transfer of land and farm businesses. To get the word out about your available farmland, please fill out the intake form on this page or contact Bonnie Warndahl at bonnie@rtcinfo.org or 612-462-9311.


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