Alternate Roots—Land Acquisition and Tenure Options

Progress report for ENC21-201

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2021: $89,656.00
Projected End Date: 09/29/2024
Grant Recipient: Kansas Rural Center
Region: North Central
State: Kansas
Project Coordinator:
Tom Buller
Kansas Rural Center
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Project Information


The Kansas Rural Center (KRC) was a major participant with Indiana University in 2016 in a SARE project “Transitioning farm and ranch land from one family to another: Evaluating new strategies for profitable transfers and sustainable agriculture partnerships.” This project responds to needs uncovered then.

More than 40% of American farmland and ranchland will change hands over the next 15 years (American Farmland Trust, 2018). This massive transfer of farm real estate offers one of the greatest threats to farmland—or one of the best opportunities for new farmers looking for land. Thus the Kansas Rural Center, in partnership with JCCC Professor of Sustainable Agriculture, Stu Shafer, proposes expanding a curriculum of land transfer and tenure practices developed by American Farmland Trust, “Farmland for the Next Generation,” a comprehensive 8-part land access trainer curriculum. The AFT skills-based approach addresses three paths to land access: leasing, purchasing, and receiving land through inheritance or gift. KRC will build upon this to develop an “alternative” land transfer/ownership/tenure curriculum that will include cooperatives, land trusts, farm commons, conservation easements, production cooperatives, as well as other land-use models for sustainable farm systems.

Year I KRC will facilitate curriculum modification with an educational team of six sub-contractors serving farmer/ranchers in Kansas, including socially disadvantaged. Year II The KRC educational advisory team will disseminate the curriculum in four regional professional development sessions and through the annual KRC Conference, YouTube and KRC website to teach extension agents, agriculture educators, and additional farm service agencies more methods to access land.

Project Objectives:

This project has varied targeted audiences totaling at least 300 in-person and 100s more virtually who will receive professional development curriculum and instruction, and educational materials on alternative land transfer/land tenure or ownership. (Baseline attendance numbers from KRC’s 2020 town halls held throughout the state and in 2021 held virtually and KRC face to face 2019 Annual Conference.) Professional development audiences will include:

  • Top-priority farmer/rancher advisors/trainers— Extension leaders/educators, organizational leaders providing farm services, especially those supporting sustainable farming/ranching (examples of interested organizations are listed in Year I activities number 5 above), farm lenders, accountants, financial advisors, attorneys, appraisers, etc.
  • Regional, State, and National policymakers, and investors supporting farm transfers/tenure

The products of professional development activities will be best practices materials for alternative land transfer and tenure/ownership to be developed by the curriculum team and presented in four regional professional development one-day gatherings, submitted for publication and broader dissemination; delivered through KRC conference presentations and, recorded sessions archived and accessible on the KRC website and YouTube; as wells broadcast stories of successful transitions/tenure and new owners via social media.  

Product Outputs will include:

  • Best practice instructional methods & curriculum for alternative land transfer/land ownership/tenure with sustainable farming examples will be created by educational advisory team;
  • 4 professional development sessions taught by members of the educational advisory team and spread regionally throughout Kansas to agricultural professionals serving students, other ag professionals, and farmer/ranchers;
  • Practical knowledge for policy and decision-makers will be created and included in professional development materials, emphasizing sustainable farm successes with alternative land access;
  • Multiple presentations by the educational advisory team will be offered on land transfer at the KRC Annual Conference during topical breakout sessions, as well as a keynote overview of land transfer options;
  • All professional development will be recorded and uploaded to the KRC website & YouTube providing ongoing access to landowner/transfer information, and skills for programs.
  • All alternative farm transfer and alternative land tenure curriculum is encouraged to be immediately applied in agricultural business and agricultural education and will be tracked by KRC long-term for at least three years; 
  • More sustainable agricultural operations continue, or begin, on farms transitioned between unrelated parties, also tracked by KRC long-term;


Educational approach:

The educational approach used in this project is based upon the work of the American Farmland Trust Land Access Training curricula, and is intended as a supplement to that rather than a holistic replacement.  The goal of this curriculum is to provide land seeking farmers with ideas and inspiration of non-traditional ways to access land, as well as an informed background on how to approach some of those alternative land access models.  This piece relies upon the foundational concepts and skills that are built into the Land Access training, but adds additional ideas and information to help farmers who struggle to obtain land access through more traditional routes. 

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Farm Transition

Develop farm transition curricula for alternative land access methods.


This initiative will develop and share curricula that explores alternative models of land access to empower those who find land unavailable through more traditional land access avenues. 

Educational & Outreach Activities

2 Online trainings
5 Webinars / talks / presentations

Participation Summary:

3 Extension
3 Nonprofit
13 Ag service providers (other or unspecified)
68 Farmers/ranchers

Learning Outcomes

45 Participants gained or increased knowledge, skills and/or attitudes about sustainable agriculture topics, practices, strategies, approaches
5 Ag professionals intend to use knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness learned

Project Outcomes

1 New working collaboration
Project outcomes:

So far this project has focused primarily on the development of a curriculum featuring alternative land transfer methods and has provided some introductory workshops on that curriculum to a variety of audiences through online and in person workshops. This beginning phase has consisted of research and additional education on topics that provide a foundation for the curriculum in areas of land tenure, farmer to farmer relationships and business structures. Discerning the key aspects of alternative models has also been complicated, as many of the successes and failures that have been explored have seemed to depend on idiosyncratic circumstances and relationships.  We continue to work to develop and refine a useful framework to place alongside the examples of alternative options to help participants understand the key points of various options and what pieces are critical for success in different models. 

In year three of the grant, we are focused on sharing that curriculum more broadly and training agricultural professionals on the use of that curriculum. 

2 Agricultural service provider participants who used knowledge and skills learned through this project (or incorporated project materials) in their educational activities, services, information products and/or tools for farmers
Additional Outcomes:

This project has been challenging because of the unconventional nature of the land access options it explores. It has demanded the development of additional areas of expertise and knowledge for the principle investigator that have been somewhat difficult to uncover and have delayed the public sharing of the curriculum.  This additional skill development around issues of farm law topics and communications has been useful in helping to work with farmers in other contexts and on other challenges beyond land access, so that has been a nice bonus to the development of the curriculum. 


Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.