Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2014: $14,796.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2016
State: New Hampshire
Cheshire County Conservation District
In 2014, the Cheshire County Conservation District—in partnership with the Monadnock Conservancy, Land for Good, and the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension—was awarded a two-year grant for the Conserved Farmland Access Partnership project through the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program to study farmland access issues in Cheshire County, NH. The project recognized that access to sufficient farmland is a significant challenge for farmers and sought to identify the barriers and opportunities to getting more land into agriculture. In particular, the project looked at conserved land—and whether this might provide an opportunity for farmers looking for land. The project team felt that owners of conserved land might be more amenable to farming since they had already demonstrated a strong land ethic by conserving their property. The Monadnock Conservancy holds 45 easements on land with agricultural potential, yet less than one quarter is used for farming by the owner or a tenant. The project team felt that there may be untapped potential with this land and wanted to explore whether more of it could be brought back into production. To research this issue, the team surveyed landowners and farmers, conducted focus group sessions, and offered farmer-landowner mixers where each group could ‘meet and greet’ and get technical assistance. While there is still much to be learned about this complex issue, the research led to the following findings: Participating landowners have a strong conservation ethic and want to see their land farmed. In cases where the land was already being farmed, landowners wanted to see that use expanded and increased. There can be a disconnect between a landowner’s interest in seeing the land farmed and the realities of a working farm (the dirt, smells, and unpredictability inherent in farming). Defining expectations from both parties and establishing good communication early is key. Economics were not a major consideration for most landowners. Most understood that farming has slim margins and making money from a lease is usually not realistic. Farmers desired longer-term, more secure arrangements (which would give them the confidence to invest in the land). Some landowners wished for this as well, but others did not want to ‘tie up their land.’ Both landowners and farmers agreed that the conservation easement did not inhibit farming. Both landowners and farmers wanted more opportunities to connect with each other and desired technical assistance (such as help drafting leases). The biggest challenge for both group seemed to be how to connect with one another. Many arrangements seem to happen through ’word of mouth.’ There was a desire for a local land linking program to help bring the two groups together more easily. These issues are explored in the case studies provided in this guide, which highlight three successful farming arrangements on Monadnock Conservancy conserved land.
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This product is associated with the project "Conserved farmland access"