Accessing & Evaluating Land
How can I farm if I can’t afford land?
While it’s still tricky to negotiate, more and more farmers are finding that you don’t need to own land in order to farm. Owning farmland can be expensive and can make it much more difficult to develop a profitable enterprise. Leasing is one of many options. As the Greenhorns say in their Guide to Farming, in the search for land to farm, “charm, persistence and determination are your best allies.”Consider the following examples of successful operations established by out-of-the-box thinkers:
- In his book No-Risk Ranching (available from many libraries and most book retailers) farmer Greg Judy describes how he turned his farm around by developing a profitable business model based on raising beef cattle he doesn’t own on land he doesn’t own. He also offers details and advice on approaching landowners and establishing successful leases.
- Do you live in a city where land is scarce and expensive? Consider Rooftop Farms in Brooklyn, or the SPIN-farming model.
- Incubator farms provide inexpensive land access in a central place, and often access to equipment and mentorship to help new farmers get started. The most well-known is the Intervale in Burlington, VT, but more are springing up around the Northeast. Check out the SEED Farm in PA, Groundswell Center for Local Food and Farming in NY, the Glynwood Center Incubator Farm, and the Community Farm of Simsbury in CT.
- You might be surprised to find out how many landowners would like to see their land be more productive, but don’t have a desire to farm it themselves. As a bonus, most states offer a reduction in property taxes on land that is in agricultural production, so once you learn the details in your state, you can use this as an incentive with landowners. Here’s one approach: 1) Find several pieces of land meeting your requirements for size, location, and soil type, 2) Go to your county Tax Assessors office to determine who owns them, 3) Send them a very polite letter expressing your interest in farming and inquiring about their willingness to lease their land, and 4) Follow up with a phone call a week or two later, to get their response. Many farmers have found land to buy OR lease using this method.
Great care should be taken when establishing a lease, as there are many issues to address in writing between landowner and farmer, such as lease tenure, infrastructure development, and permitted uses.
For personalized assistance, Land For Good is an organization devoted to keeping Northeast farmland productive. They offer farm transfer planning and can assist with development of strong leases.The New England Small Farm Institute published Holding Ground: A Northeast Guide to Farmland Tenure and Stewardship, a book containing lease language, case studies, worksheets, and non-ownership tenure options.
Another nice publication on creative options for finding land from ATTRA (Appropriate Technology Transfer to Rural Areas) is available online here.
If you would like to learn more about evaluating your land’s potential for farm production, start with the Evaluating Land, Environment and Facilities tutorial at left and navigate through the chapters on climate, soil, and infrastructure.
- Individuals interested in purchasing farmland might also be interested in our Funding (Loans/Grants) Page, which lists resources related to funding land purchases and other needs.
This page is organized into three main sections:
- General Resources about finding land to farm, both national and regional.
- Land listing services, both national and regional.
- LandLink programs by state. LandLink programs “link retirement and farm exit approaches with farm entry strategies.” For additional information on LandLink programs visit the International Farm Transition network (IFTN).
- General Resources about Finding Land to Farm
- Center for Rural Affairs Finding Land To Farm page has a number of useful ideas and links.
- USDA-ERS Land Use and Land Tenure page has analysis of farmland prices throughout the country, as well as a host of statistical information and research reports related to farmland ownership and pricing.
- Finding Land to Farm: Six Ways to Secure Farmland is a National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service (ATTRA) publication, available free on the web.
- The New England Small Farms Institute (NESFI) has a Land Resources Page with useful information and publications about strategies for finding land.
- Land For Good offers a toolbox with sections on farm seekers, farm transfer planning, landowners, educators and advisors, and communities. Land For Good’s programming is largely oriented toward New England.
- FindForms.com has legal forms for land contract and statement of deed
- Agrinuity offers ‘farmland ownership services’
- Land Listing Services
- LandsofAmerica.com is the largest rural listing service in the nation specializing in land for sale.
- LoopNet is a national search engine that allows you to search for farmland real estate listings in any part of the country.
- LandandFarm.com lists farmland for sale.
- Goodbye Citylife lists resources for those looking for farmland for sale.
- Shared Earth helps link farmers and gardeners looking for land, with people looking to share their land.
- AgriSeek allows you to search farms for sale by category and location.
- Mother Earth News lists farms and rural properties at their Lands for Sale page.
- Landsale Listings is a website with lots of information about rural land, farms, ranches and more.
- Rodale Institute’s Farmers Connect forum replaces their former ‘classifieds’ page.
- LandLister has rural land and farm real estate listings.
Regional & State
- Upper Mid-West: The Land Stewardship Project’s Farm Beginnings Program has a resource called Seeking Farmers-Seeking Land Clearinghouse Listings, which lists land opportunities in the upper Midwest.
- Midwest: The Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) has a resource listing farmland for sale/rent, and farmland wanted called Land Link-Up.
- Midwest: The Midwest Farm Connection lists land for sale.
- Minnesota and Wisconsin: rural land in these states can be found at LandBin.
- Minnesota: The Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s Farm Realty Listing Page is a compilation of farm properties that are for sale or rent and that already have the infrastructure in place to raise livestock or that could potentially be modified to raise livestock.
- Massachusetts/Southern New Hampshire: Tufts University’s New Entry Sustainable Farming Project lists land availabilities at the Farmland Resources Link.
- Vermont: Learn about the Vermont Agriculture Land Access Database
- The following is a State by State listing of Land Link Programs
This listing is adapted from the listing of network participants in the International Farm Transition Network.
California: California FarmLink
Connecticut: Connecticut FarmLink
Florida: Florida Farm Finder
Iowa: Beginning Farmer Center
Maine: Maine Farmlink
or New England Land Link
Maryland: Eastern Shore Land Conservancy
Massachusetts: New England Land Link
Minnesota: Land Stewardship Project
Montana: Land Link Montana
Nebraska: The Beginning Farmer Program
New Hampshire: New England Land Link
New Jersey: State Ag Development Committee
New Mexico: Central New Mexico Land Link
New York: NY FarmLink
or New England Land Link
North Carolina: North Carolina Dept. of Agriculture
Ohio: The Countryside Conservancy
Oregon: iFarm Oregon
Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania Farm Link, Inc.
or Center for Farm Transitions
Rhode Island: New England Land Link
Vermont: Family Farm Succession in Vermont
or New England Land Link
Virginia: Virginia Farm Link program
Washington: Washington FarmLink
Wisconsin: Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES)