By Bonnie Warndahl
One morning recently I opened my work email and saw this headline in Morning Ag Clips: The Number of the World’s Farms to Halve by 2100, Study Shows.
The study, conducted by the New University of Colorado Boulder, was published by Nature Sustainability and is reportedly the first to track the number and size of farms year-over-year, from the 1960s and projected through 2100. Findings show that fewer people will own and farm the land that will be available, even if the amount of farmland doesn’t change, globally. This has serious implications for food system security and biodiversity—not to mention the base issue of having enough farmland and farmers to feed our human population. Below are some quotes from the article by Zia Mehrabi, assistant professor of environmental studies at CU Boulder.
“Larger farms typically have less biodiversity and more monocultures,” Mehrabi said. “Smaller farms typically have more biodiversity and crop diversity, which makes them more resilient to pest outbreaks and climate shocks.”
And it’s not just biodiversity: Food supply is also at risk. Mehrabi’s previous research shows the world’s smallest farms make up just 25% of the world’s agricultural land but harvest one-third of the world’s food.
Moreover, fewer farms mean fewer farmers who may carry with them valuable Indigenous knowledge dating back centuries. As farms consolidate, that knowledge is replaced by new technology and mechanisation.
“Currently, we have around 600 million farms feeding the world, and they’re carrying 8 billion people on their shoulders,” Mehrabi said. “By the end of the century, we’ll likely have half the number of farmers feeding even more people. We really need to think about how we can have the education and support systems in place to support those farmers.”
I wholeheartedly agree with Assistant Professor Mehrabi. Farmers need support and resources like never before, particularly those small-scale farmers who are committed to growing diversified crops with the full ecosystem in mind. It is more and more critical that measures are taken to keep farmland in farming and get new farmers on the land.
Livestock Giveaway Contest Winner(s)
In last month’s issue we highlighted the Livestock Giveaway Contest by Hoch Orchard and Gardens in La Crescent, MN—hosted by partnering organizations Renewing the Countryside, Marbleseed, Sustainable Farming Association, Practical Farmers of Iowa, and Land Stewardship Project. Between May 1 and May 15 farmers in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa were invited to enter the contest to win a starter flock of sheep or a trio of pastured breeding hogs. Winners were chosen based on experience or knowledge of raising livestock, access to mentorship, available infrastructure and access to pasture (for the animals, not the farmers), and how obtaining livestock would improve their quality of life (for the farmers, not the animals—although animal quality-of-life was a central consideration).
The Hoch Orchard Livestock Contest winners are as follows:
Winner of sheep: Kifah Abdi of Lindstrom, Minnesota
Winner of hogs: Sal Daggett of New Richmond, Wisconsin
Congratulations to the Hoch's and our winners! And thank you to our partners Land Stewardship Project, Sustainable Farming Association, Marbleseed, Practical Farmers of Iowa and Renewing the Countryside for their support and assistance in this process. Photos and comments to come in the next issue of the Farmland Access Hub newsletter!
Building Community for Land Access Webinar - First and Next
Wednesday, May 17, 2023—The first event of the Building Community for Land Access series was a smashing success with over 100 participants registered for the webinar and 77 actual attendees.
Three African immigrant farmers representing three different organizations presented their stories on their own personal journey of land access and learning to farm in the Midwest—a much different climate than they were used to in their home environment—as well as their efforts to support and mentor other African immigrant farmers in growing a viable farm business.
The Q & A session was so robust that organizers had to extend the webinar in order to adequately respond to questions and calls for action.
One thing is clear—there is a large land access need for African immigrant farmers and there is a desire (at least in the Twin Cities’ greater metro area) to provide access to land, to help with support in accessing financial resources, and to work on clearing the path for skilled food growers.
The next Building Community for Land Access event is being planned for July. Please check Land Stewardship Project’s events page for details.
LAND ACCESS SUCCESS STORIES
Two Young Farmers, One Big Farm—Elgin, MN—May, 2023
Young farmers Ben and Andy Klein recently purchased the farm adjacent to their parent's land in Elgin, Minnesota.
On Tuesday, May 16, I had the great pleasure of conducting a phone interview with farmer Andy Klein of Elgin, Minnesota. Andy, age 23, and his brother Ben, age 22, are fourth-generation farmers and the oldest of Lisa and Eric’s six children.
“My Parents took over from Grandpa about 25 years ago. Grandpa started chemical-free farming back in the ‘70s. My parents took a step further with direct marketing and raising grass fed beef. In recent years we became certified organic.”
Having grown up farming with their parents at Hidden Stream Farm in Elgin, Andy and Ben have a deep knowledge of farming and farm business management, despite their young age. Ben Klein has been heading up the management of animals and crops and Andy has been managing sales and distribution at their parents’ farm. Last fall, however, a new opportunity presented itself. The Klein boys’ childhood friends and neighbors, who had recently inherited their father’s 120-acre farmstead bordering the east side of Hidden Stream Farm, approached them with the news that they were planning to sell the farm. The caveat? They had one week to come up with a purchase agreement.
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Andy. “Mom’s been waiting for that farm to come up for sale her whole life. I started making calls and figuring out how the hell I’m going to do this.”
With help from the Farm Service Agency (FSA) Andy and Ben cobbled together financing with their bank and the Rural Finance Authority.
“It was a lot of paperwork and it took us six months to close. Who really wants to give a couple of kids a million dollars to play with? No one in their right mind wants to trust a 20-year-old kid to run a business unsupervised.”
Unless those “kids” have adequate experience and financial records! I asked Andy if the new farm has a name yet.
“No name for the farm yet. We’ve only had it a month,” he laughed.
“Will you and Ben continue to partner with your parents at Hidden Stream Farm or begin your own farm enterprise?” I inquired.
“We’re still in debate about things. Our parents will be buying corn from us, and we’ll be renting machinery from them. Buying the farm was one thing, but if we had to buy equipment too that would be a whole different story. We’re doing rotational cropping between corn and beans and cover cropping—we don’t use glyphosates or anything like that— fixing waterways. The soil itself needs a lot of fixing because it’s been cropped and rented for 60 years. There’s a lot of soil health that has to be re-built. As of right now my first priority is making my first land payment,” he half-joked. “Once we see what the soil can support we can start to make more plans.”
Andy and Ben are also currently working on spiffing up the farmhouse, which as Andy put it, “needs a lot of love.” Once it’s feeling more liveable Ben will move into the house. For now Andy is planning to stay in the home he and his fiance Madison purchased last October in Elgin—juuust before the farm came up for sale. Talk about ambition!
Congratulations to Andy and Ben and best of luck to the whole Klein family as they continue their farming endeavors.
New Hub Listserv—Invite to join
Are you looking for ways to be more connected regarding land access? Perhaps you would like to join the Farmland Access Hub Discussion Group! This new listserv is a platform for land access discussion and opportunities, landowner/landseeker networking, and notifications about news/upcoming events/new newsletter postings. To be added to the Google Group please email email@example.com and request to be added to the Farmland Access Hub discussion group or fill out the contact form on our website farmlandaccesshub.org and choose the option to be added to the listserv.
Saturday, June 3
3:00 pm – 5:00 pm
Screening of Stewards of the Land / Serán las dueñas de la tierra in Northfield
Stewards of the Land/Serán las dueñas de la tierra is a feature documentary about Stephanie, Ian, and Alfredo, three young landless ecological farmers in Puerto Rico striving to produce healthy food for local consumption. In this economically depressed U.S. territory, producing food locally is desperately needed. The archipelago sits on the path of powerful hurricanes, an increasing threat as the climate crisis worsens. Puerto Rico is highly dependent on food imports and a third of its population lives in food insecurity. The story begins when the protagonists arrive for the first time on the public lands they rent. The farms have been abandoned for decades and lack the most basic infrastructure to get started. The story follows the protagonists as they struggle to get the farms running before and after powerful hurricanes devastate the archipelago. The documentary shows the protagonists’ grit as they attempt to carve a living without land ownership or capital.
There are two opportunities to participate:
Click here to RSVP to the Northfield event on Saturday, June 3.
Land Access & Leasing Options—A farm visit for landowners and renters looking to lease to the next generation of farmers
Location: Baldur Farm, N7659 950th St. River Falls, WI 54022
1-1:15 Gather at Baldur Farm
1:15-1:45 Joyce Monari, a native of Kenya, has been growing two types of chinsaga, a type of green familiar to her people, for several years on Baldur Farm. She will show us her garden, talk about her crops, and discuss the difficulty of finding land.
1:45-2:15 Juliet Tomkins and Prescott Bergh have rented land to a variety of farmers over the years, from beginning CSA growers to livestock operators. They will talk about their experiences, which have led to the contract they now use to ensure understanding between themselves and their renters before problems arise.
Light snacks and refreshments provided after the talks. Maureen and Rich, the farmers at Baldur Farm, will be on hand to answer questions about their draft horses. Attendees are welcome to walk the farm trails.
Thanks for reading and don't forget to check for regularly updated land access events on our Events Page!