Farmland Access Task Force Continues to Work on Multiple Projects
The Farmland Access Task Force has been busy the last several months working on a diverse set of projects pertaining to: farmland search tools, outreach to real estate agents, coordinating direct technical assistance on farmland access, addressing farm transfer and succession and the financing for farmland.
Many members of the Task Force are also participating in the New England-wide "Land Access Project": http://landforgood.org/our-work/projects/land-access-project-phase-2/. This includes a regional Task Force focused on "Listing and Linking" efforts to help farmers find and secure land. This Task Force is being Chaired by Ben Waterman of the UVM Center for Sustainable Agriculture.
In the meanwhile, the VT F2P Task Force is meeting regularly to have discussions specifically about how to improve listing and linking efforts here in VT, while keeping aware of, and contributing to, the regional efforts. In a related activity, the coordination of the Vermont Land Link website and search tool http://vermontlandlink.org/ moved from UVM to the Intervale Center with Stacy Burnstein taking over coordination for Ben Waterman. Together, members of the VT F2P Task Force are providing input and seeking funding for maintaining and improving this effort. Over the last several months Stacy has been working with the website developer in making several updates and improvements to the Vermont Land Link search tool and website. Further, she has been doing a significant amount of outreach to real estate agents in a largely successful effort to get them to share their farm listings on Vermont Land Link. The latest effort is to also add “farm seeker profiles” to the site so that property owners can also reach out directly to farmers who might be interested in their land. This will be launched in 2017.
In the Fall of 2016, Land For Good released the report on the research which it did in conjunction with UVM Extension on the Farmland Investment Companies working in New England. http://landforgood.org/farmland-investors-report-released/ A number of presentations and discussions on this topic have been initiated since the report’s release, and the role of private investors in farmland access will be a topic which will continue to be monitored by the F2P Task Force.
In 2016, UVM, the Intervale, Land For Good, and RAFFL secured a second Working Lands Grant to provide more direct service and education to farm seekers, and to better coordinate the activities of these organizations. Over the last year, under the first grant, these organizations have provided enhanced support to several farm seekers and also conducted 3 very well attended Farmland Access Workshops in Danby, Shelburne, and most recently in April, 2016 in White River Junction. The work associated with the current grant will continue through the fall of 2017
In December 2016, many members of the VT F2P Task Force joined other people from throughout New England who are working on farmland access at a regional meeting of the Land Access Project. During that meeting, the VT contingent decided that one of our priorities for 2017 should be to have more direct dialog with lenders about what they are seeing on the ground as far as credit access for farmland purchases and farm transfers, particularly in light of very low conventional milk prices. The first step has been to reach out to the Farm to Plate Financing Cross-Cutting Team. We expect to start a dialog with members of this group and other capital providers by the spring of 2017.