One of the biggest challenges facing new farmers is access to affordable land. And so first-time farmers everywhere are finding innovative ways to gain some fields to call their own, from creating partnerships with more established farmers to setting up community-supported ventures.
The Greenhorns is a US-based, grassroots organisation with a mission to recruit, promote and support the new generation of farmers:
“America needs more young farmers and more young farmers want a piece of America.”
It does this by hosting events and creating numerous resources – videos, publications, audio and web content – aimed at those wanting to enter the agricultural profession.
The Greenhorns’ financial literacy guidebook, Affording Our Land, was written by founder Severine von Tscharner Fleming, along with Kristen Loria, Kendra Johnson and Cara Sipprelle. It provides a thorough overview of the range of options available to those trying to access land and credit for starting or growing their own farm businesses.
The guide begins with a brief history of land access and ownership in the United States – from the arrival of the Europeans to the present day – and the impact this has had on farmers, land health, stewardship and ownership.
It then goes on to explain the different ways of acquiring land, from the traditional to the more creative. Beginning with an overview of the different types of leases available, it also outlines some of the basic components of a good lease, including determining how long the lease will last, how much the rent will be and restrictions on land usage. Most importantly, it advises, a handshake won’t do! By writing down the terms of the agreement, each party knows exactly who is responsible for what.
Having a piece of land to call your own might seem like an attractive prospect, but as the guide points out, “Leasing is a great way to start your farming career. If you don’t have many assets, and you’re still figuring out your ideal size, location, and infrastructure needs, leasing doesn’t lock you down.” It’s a good way to test the water before committing to something more permanent.
Once you feel you are in a position to buy, there are a number of different ways you can go about it, such as equity agreements and cooperative land purchasing. Each option includes information on whom it best suits and how to go about paying for it.
It’s inevitable that some form of credit will be involved in running your farm, whether in the initial start up or as part of the running costs, which is why the next section focuses on the different options available in financing a farming venture and how to access capital for land purchase.
If you’re thinking about your options as a new farmer, Affording Our Land is an excellent place to start. You can also find a list of resources and suggestions for further reading at the end of the guide.
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