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The Full Equation: Addressing Farmland Access from All Angles—Farmland Access Hub February/March 2024

By Bonnie Warndahl

Since February of 2021 I have been actively engaged in Farmland Access work. When I entered this domain I believed my focus would be solely on supporting land-seeking farmers in their tenure goals—but it rapidly became clear to me that escorting the next generation of farmers onto viable farmland was just one piece of a very complicated puzzle. 

To realize the full equation we, as educators and service providers, need to understand and emphasize farmland preservation—and farmland transfer—as much as we emphasize access. You can’t have one without the other. We also need to be actively working on changing and implementing state and federal policies that accomplish these goals while providing both incoming and exiting farmers with financial and technical support. 

In recent years I have presented frequently on this topic and have come to the realization that painting the whole picture is necessary to drive the point home. This isn’t easy to do succinctly and much of the information I use comes from the 2017 Census of Agriculture and the Farms Under Threat 2040 Report by American Farmland Trust. It can be an intense session and there are some pretty unsettling projections but I truly believe that people need to be a little shaken sometimes in order to mobilize. This is a serious issue with potentially devastating consequences. 

When giving these kinds of overviews, I first frame the “why” of Farmland Access and Transfer in relation to everyone—and I mean literally every human, because everyone needs food. Why do we need to be doing this work to begin with? Then, I break down the unique challenges of the two groups most immediately affected by these issues: land-seeking farmers and retiring farmers/exiting landowners. In the simplest terms there are three major concerns:

  • Rapidly disappearing (viable) farmland, due to runaway sprawl, foreign investment in American farmland, and corporate farming

  • A retiring generation of skilled food-producers 

  • The replacement generation being first-generation farmers with limited resources (in an inflated economy). 

Last weekend I gave a talk at a community event in my neighborhood called the Traditional and Green Skills Event or TGSE for short. By “neighborhood”  I’m referring to a cluster of towns in rural western Wisconsin around the Hay River, which identifies as the Hay River Community—Prairie Farm, Ridgeland, Dallas, Colfax, Boyceville, Sand Creek, and others. The purpose of this event is to connect with neighbors in the community and share skills that are useful for homesteading, farming, and living a sustainable lifestyle. There are conference-style sessions throughout the day, taught by volunteers with an individual skill or skill set. While “farmland access and transfer” is not exactly a skill the organizers felt it was an important enough topic to cover at the event and relevant to our farming community. No better place to do important work than right in your own backyard, right?

Despite a heavier-than-usual conference season and many talks about farmland access and transfer, having this conversation with my neighbors felt harder, somehow. At first I was nervous that no one would show up. Then I feared they would start walking out. They did show up though and they didn’t walk out. They listened intently and produced important questions: 

“Is climate change also a factor?” 

“Are corporate farms part of what’s causing this?” 

“How can we stop it?” 

“If we sell our land how can we ensure it stays protected—and that whoever buys it doesn't just turn around and sell it to a developer for a profit?” 

“What can we do to actually be effective in policy change?”

Even if they don’t understand the deeper issues around farmland access and transfer, people in rural communities perceive the threat. All around us farms are transforming into housing developments, strip malls, and warehouses. More trees are being torn down to “make room” for more corn and soy. The rural landscape is changing dramatically and swiftly. I drove to the Twin Cities recently via I-94 and noticed that Saint Paul sprawl reaches all the way out to the Afton exit now. It won’t be too long before the metro connects to Stillwater, Minnesota at the St. Croix River. 

We have to be more effective at getting the word out and we need to find more effective ways to halt this process. In less than two decades we’ll be at the 2040 mark. Can we save the 24.4 million acres projected to be lost? The future is closing in. The time to act is now. 


American Farmland Trust is hiring! – Agricultural Land Access and Transfer Senior Specialist

Nearly 300 million acres of American farmland are expected to change hands in the next twenty years. As aging farmers exit the field, the future is uncertain for about one-third of the country’s farm and ranch land. At the same time, a new more diverse generation of farmers is seeking opportunities to access suitable farm and ranch land in communities across the country.


American Farmland Trust is seeking an Agricultural Land Access and Transfer Senior Specialist to join the Farms for a New Generation team and lead efforts to catalyze growing networks of partners, including land trusts, extension agencies, and other organizations, that are providing direct technical assistance as coaches – or Navigators – to support the equitable and secure transfer of farm and ranch land to a new generation. The position will work collaboratively across AFT divisions and with external partners to organize and implement strategies that support Navigators, including AFT staff, and the direct technical assistance they provide and will play a key role in the development of internal systems and processes as well as partnerships to strategically grow this type of support.


For more information on the position, please visit If you have specific questions regarding the role or this initiative at AFT, please contact Erica Goodman, Farms for a New Generation Director, at

Job Opening for Farms Fund Specialist

The Conservation Fund is hiring for a metro Chicago Farms Fund Specialist.  Please see the job description at the link below or at


The Farms Fund was launched in metro Chicago in 2022 and is in a growth stage. We are seeking to hire a Chicago Metro Farms Fund Specialist to join the team. The Specialist serves an essential role in providing critical support for farmers in the Chicago Metro Farms Fund program as they successfully scale up their farm businesses after gaining access to larger farm properties through the program. This position supports the transition of farmers onto newly acquired farms, providing farm lease oversight; connecting the farmers with resources and technical assistance; and property management functions to ensure the on-farm infrastructure is serving the farmers’ production and growth goals. 


University of Wisconsin–Extension 

Agricultural Leasing Videos 

Three recently released videos by Kelly Wilfert, Extension Farm Management Outreach Specialist, are now available to view on Extension’s website. These videos cover the legal aspects of agricultural leasing.  They intend to help protect farmland from the risks of a verbal lease, level up farmland lease agreements, and include soil and water conservation clauses in a lease. 


Renewing the Countryside and USDA

Twin Cities Urban Agriculture Micro-Grant Program

Peace Garden in the Rondo Neighborhood of Saint Paul, Minnesota. Photo submitted by Kara Komoto

Renewing the Countryside is excited to work with USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA), Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), and other partners to enrich urban agriculture in the Twin Cities metropolitan area. As part of that effort they are introducing new micro-grant programs and are now accepting applications for these micro-grant opportunities until March 31, 2024.

The goals of this micro-grant program are to help urban farmers and gardeners expand their production ability, access land and markets, use conservation practices, and increase their resilience to the various risks of farming in urban settings. 


Feature Article: Three Nebraska tribes are buying back farmland, and attempting to reverse history—Investigate Midwest, October 16, 2023

Photo from the article by Investigate Midwest: Ho Chunk Farms agribusiness supervisor Cory Cleveland picks Indian Corn from a field Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2023, near Winnebago, Nebraska. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Thanks to Alex Bagwajinini Kmett of the Red Lake Nation for sharing this piece on Nebraska tribes attempting to buy back tribal land. “This article has been particularly of interest to me,” he shared, “as it mentions in the ‘Sticker Shock’ section that some tribes have had to purchase land at over $43K/acre, naming racism as an underlying factor. In my talks with other Native farmers and tribal organizations, these issues are common. Racism is an underlying reason for higher land prices. Prices have often dropped dramatically when a non-Native organization was the buyer."

Excerpt from the article:

In the past few years, both the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska and the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska have made small and large land purchases. The Iowa Tribe added 4 acres next to some land it already owned. The Ponca made a 36-acre land buy.

Neither is notable, except for the price tag: More than $43,000 per acre.  

“I don’t see too many places where anything approaching that happens,” said Cris Stainbrook, Oglala Lakota and president of the Indian Land Tenure Foundation. “I mean, $40,000 an acre is a lot.”

Farmland prices in Nebraska have risen across the board in recent years alongside the commodity market. According to UNL’s 2022 Nebraska Farm Real Estate Report, the highest quality irrigated land in the state is sold for around $11,000 an acre. 

In north and southeast Nebraska, though, where the Winnebago and Iowa are buying, average acre values range closer to $7,000.


Survey Results: Beginning Farmer Tax Credits (BFTC)

In 2022 Indiana University Sustainable Food Systems Science conducted a survey of participants in Beginning Farmer Tax Credits (BFTC) around the country.

The survey was done as part of a USDA-funded assessment of land access incentive policies nationwide. Together with research and extension partners American Farmland Trust and Portland State University, with input from Community of Practice partners from the Nebraska and Minnesota departments of agriculture, Iowa Finance Authority, Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development, and National Young Farmers Coalition.


11-Acre Farm for Sale—CSA Ready

Belle Plaine, MN—11.01 Acres w/Older 2 2-story home near Belle Plaine, Minnesota, southwest of the Twin Cities metro. 4+BR 1 1/2 Baths, 3 season porch, original hardwood floors, updated kitchen & woodwork throughout, 30x72 Pole Barn, 32x26 attached to pole barn, older barn, and other smaller outbuildings.

  • Wood furnace (Kuma) uses about 4 cords of wood in the winter

  • Unfinished 3rd floor of home has oak floor and 20 amp romex up to it

  • Large Sunroom

  • Pocket door between living and formal dining room

  • Maple flooring from Belle Plaine, MN

  • Kitchen remodel…Viking 48” commercial range with 6 burners plus griddle, wall oven

  • Well upgraded with new pump and all mechanics in ground

  • Barn roof and windows replaced

  • House and barn painted summer 2023

  • Shop on side of garage with concrete floor (30x60)

  • Half of the pastures are cross fence-

  • Foura-cre hayfield has a temporary wire fence (200 bales from one cutting

  • Orchard: apple, pear, apricot cherry

  • Perennial herb garden

  • 700 Strawberry plants

  • Wild blackberries, serviceberries, and elderberries

  • Vegetable beds

  • Two horse runs

  • Well by the garden

Sellers are asking $525K. For more information please contact John Hoffmeister at

Certified Organic Land for Sale


Certified Organic Land for sale in south-central South Dakota.

Two quarters sell separately with the tillable land seeded to alfalfa and grass and 

611 acres of grass/pasture sells as one unit. This pasture is cross-fenced into 11 paddocks and is all contiguous. All paddocks have water piped-in to rubber-tire tanks with floats. These pastures have been rotationally grazed for 10 years. 

Land sells at auction on March 18, 2024.  


Owners: Lance & Doris Ekberg, Hamill, SD  605-842-3108 or cell 605-840-9539  


Upcoming Events

Farmland Access & Tenure Overview with Kathy Ruhf, Land for Good

Friday, March 22, 2024 | 11:00am-12:30pm CT

Zoom webinar | Register here

Farmland access and tenure are critical topics for those interested in getting a next generation of farmers on the land, but many people lack a solid understanding of the subject. 

Kathy Ruhf, Senior Advisor at Land for Good, will provide us with an overview including what we know from the data, key issues, and barriers and opportunities in this space, with ample time for Q&A to follow. Join us on Zoom for this important conversation!

About Kathy Ruhf: A nationally respected advisor and leader, Kathy has worked on farm access, tenure and transfer for over 30 years, 20 of those with Land For Good. She has written guides, articles and policy papers, led workshops and projects, and worked with farm families on these issues across the US. She lives in western Massachusetts.

Register for the webinar here. Feel free to share with your colleagues and networks!

Email Bonnie Warndahl with any questions:

University of Wisconsin–Extension: Free Farm Succession Workshops

These workshops will be offered in four locations in late March/early April:

Thursday, March 21, 2024, 9:00 am – Noon in Dodgeville at the Iowa County Law Enforcement Center, 109 E. Leffler Street, Dodgeville, WI

Wednesday, March 27, 2024, 6:00 – 9:00 pm in Montello at the Marquette County Services Center, 480 Underwood Avenue, Montello, WI 

Thursday, March 28, 2024, 9:00 am – Noon in Abbotsford at the Public Learning Center, Abbotsford City Hall, 203 N 1st St, Abbotsford, WI 


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 “Available Farms” 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 or 612-462-9311.

If you do not wish to have your farm's profile posted publicly we can add your information to our internal database and share it confidentially with our Farmland Access Navigators.



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