According to recent research from American Farmland Trust (AFT), many beginning farmers and ranchers find identifying the right land to purchase or lease—at an affordable price—to be one of their most significant challenges. In addition, accessing the capital needed to start or expand a farm business can also be daunting. To address these issues, AFT’s Farmland Information Center (FIC)—with support from Farm Credit—is offering free new online resources to benefit beginning farmers and ranchers at www.farmlandinfo.org/beginningfarmers.
The web resources were created to fill a knowledge gap identified by AFT’s 2014 report, Cultivating the Next Generation: Resources and Policies to Help Beginning Farmers Succeed in Agriculture. “We found a well-developed infrastructure already existed to help beginners with production, marketing and credit. But, there are few programs and resources available to help beginning farmers secure appropriate land,” says Julia Freedgood, AFT’s Assistant Vice President for Programs.
The new online resources on the FIC website can help beginning farmers find resources on the different options for securing land, programs that help connect farmers with available land, and information about how to partner with private conservation organizations and public agencies. These organizations are listed in a new national directory: http://www.farmlandinfo.org/directory.
Beginning farmers can use the directory to find farmland protection partners that help land seekers. Pages for policymakers highlight effective state and federal approaches to improve land access for beginning farmers that can be adapted for their own communities. Pages for agricultural landowners provide resources for leasing land to farmers.
The collection of resources also identifies key lenders and helps farmers understand what they need to do to get ready for credit. Freedgood says, “Although there is an established network of agricultural lenders, beginning farmers, especially those from non-farm backgrounds, may not be aware of these institutions.”
“Another issue is that beginning farmers and ranchers may not be prepared to apply for credit,” notes Gary Matteson from Farm Credit. Financial literacy and business planning are essential skills to help beginning farmers prepare for credit and the appropriate land tenure arrangement.
“Keeping farmers on the land is one of the most effective ways to save farmland for farming,” says Freedgood. “These resources will help the next generation get on the land.”