Just starting out farming and trying to find suitable land? American Farmland Trust has a program to help. Selected by ATF in 10 U.S. farm production regions, 24 Land Access Trainers are now available to help beginning farmers and ranchers secure agricultural land as part of a nationwide, four-year-long project.
AFT picked professionals from Cooperative Extension, state departments of agriculture, community planning agencies, and nonprofit organizations including land trusts. Each expert has experience working with beginning farmers and ranchers and nearly all are familiar with land access issues in their region. Together, the group serves a diverse array of beginning farmers and ranchers involved in different types of agriculture.
According to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, the number of beginning farmers and ranchers in the United States has decreased 20 percent from 2007 and hit a 30-year low. Through the Land Access Trainers program, AFT will help new farmers and ranchers overcome one of the most significant barriers to entering either profession: securing suitable land.
“Many factors conspire to make land unaffordable to rent or buy– from competition from nonfarm development and established farmers, to increasingly large parcel sizes,” said Julia Freedgood, co-project director and AFT’s Assistant VP of Programs. “We’ve also found that there’s relatively little support provided to beginning producers to help them understand their options. This project aims to fill the gap.”
The Land Access Trainers will work with AFT to develop comprehensive land access curriculum. They also will pilot and deliver the curriculum in their regions and help AFT create a national network of service providers to sustain the project and provide ongoing support to beginning farmers and ranchers.
“We have an amazing group of passionate and experienced trainers,” Jennifer Dempsey, co-project director and Director of AFT’s Farmland Information Center, said. “We look forward to working with them to create needed training tools to help beginning farmers and ranchers across the country get onto land and grow their operations.”