What do you call a project with over 40 partners in six states working in five task forces over three years?
We call it the Land Access Project (LAP). LAP is winding down, touting accomplishments that have substantially improved farmland access for beginning and other farmers in New England. Under the direction of LFG, this multi-faceted project addressed the farmland access challenge from a systems perspective, meaning we holistically-tackled the problem from several angles.
LAP colleagues from organizations and agencies in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont helped farm seekers learn about their options and make sound land acquisition decisions. Equally important, we worked with those who own the land - farmland owners and farm families transitioning out of farming. We trained and connected service providers who have a role in land access and transfer.
We held a dozen workshops for non-farming landowners and produced guides for farmers without successors, next generation farmers, and public and private landowners. We created a regional online farm property clearinghouse, and upgraded a website for retiring farmers. Our reports on policy innovations, farmland investors and agricultural easements translate investigation into practical recommendations to improve land access in our region. In the process we sent over 1,900 emails to hundreds of farm organizations, service providers, civic leaders and agency personnel about our events and products.
Many audiences will benefit from our efforts, from farmers to landowners to policymakers.
Over 90% of LAP project partners thought that LAP has resulted in improved communication about land access issues among service providers across New England. Commented one partner: "Honored to be part of this New England team. Excellent job, Land For Good; your leadership was exactly what we needed to fulfill the goals of this project."
LAP was supported by the US Department of Agriculture's Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (USDA/NIFA BFRD #2010-03067). It is one of several dozen projects across the country working on beginning farmer training and support.
Due to the Farm Bill quagmire, the opportunity for LFG to renew this project and build upon its successes and collaborations has been eliminated. The future of the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program itself is uncertain. Nonetheless, our work has lasting impact and we'll continue with our New England partners to improve land access for farm seekers.