Farmland Advisors New Jersey: A Training Program for Professionals Working with Farmers to Access and Transfer Farmland

Final report for ENE18-152

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2018: $74,133.00
Projected End Date: 02/28/2021
Grant Recipient: American Farmland Trust
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
David Haight
American Farmland Trust
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Project Information

Summary:

One of the greatest challenges facing beginning farmers in New Jersey is securing access to farmland. Purchasing farmland is difficult, as the state is home to some of the most expensive farmland in America, ranking second with an average of $12,800 per acre. Leasing farmland can also be difficult, as short-term leases that are commonly available offer little security to beginning farmers. Even the 230,000 acres of permanently protected farmland can be unaffordable for new farmers to purchase. 

Despite the fact that 40% of farmland in New Jersey is rented, opportunities for secure farm leases are scarce. Short-term leases discourage capital investments or use of sustainable practices. Landowners may also prefer less intensive types of agriculture. Available farm leasing opportunities can also be distant from desired markets. 

At the same time, farm transfers are often difficult due to family, business, legal, and tax issues, and farms are at risk of being lost to development. 277,000 acres of farmland has been lost to real estate development in New Jersey since the 1980s. 

Farmland Advisors New Jersey: A Training Program for Professionals Working with Farmers to Access and Transfer Farmland addressed these problems by training a network of 14 diverse professionals to educate and support beginning farmers as they search for land, as well as senior farmers and non-farming landowners, to help them make their land available to beginning farmers. 

The Farmland Advisors Program utilized a progressive “train the trainer” approach to build professional capacity for service providers to fill this role in New Jersey and better address these issues surrounding accessing and transferring farmland. The curriculum included two introductory webinars to introduce participants to the program and the Land Access Training curriculum, a new curriculum developed by AFT that was used for this project, and a webinar and full-day workshop addressing three areas: introduction to land tenure; techniques for assessing farmland and farm leases; and farm transfer planning. These trainings were followed by peer-to-peer networking calls, coaching calls, and virtual learning opportunities to complement in-person learning.  

Twelve Farmland Advisors used Learning Action Plans to outline their goals at the beginning of this program, received stipends to support those goals and activities, and reported on their activities using the Verification Support Tool. According to the Verification Support Tools submitted, Farmland Advisors educated or advised 323 farmers and landowners, working on over 2,500 acres of land. About 230 of those farmers and landowners were supported individually, and 90 were supported through workshops and other events. 

In addition, over 100 farmers took action towards accessing land or keeping their land in farming. Actions included creating profiles on the NJ Farm Link, pursuing a conservation easement with a land trust, farmers meeting with landowners to discuss a lease, or assessing a property to determine if it fits a farmer’s needs. 

Performance Target:

Performance target for service providers
15 professionals in New Jersey who become prepared to advise beginning farmers in accessing farmland and senior farmers and non-farming landowners in providing access to or transferring farmland will teach 250 farmers about options, and help 50 farmers take steps to access or transfer farmland.

Performance target for farmers
50 farmers who manage/aspire to manage 1,000 acres take steps to access or transfer farmland such as completing a farmland suitability or farm transfer readiness assessment or making listings on the NJ LandLink website.

Introduction:

One of the greatest challenges facing beginning farmers in New Jersey is securing access to farmland. Purchasing farmland is difficult as the state is home to some of the most expensive farmland in America, ranking second with an average of $12,800 per acre. Leasing farmland can also be difficult as short-term leases that are commonly available offer little security to beginning farmers. Even the 230,000 acres of permanently protected farmland can be unaffordable for new farmers to purchase.

Despite the fact that 40% of farmland in New Jersey is rented, opportunities for secure farm leases are scarce. Short term leases discourage capital investments or use of sustainable practices. Landowners may also prefer less intensive types of agriculture. Available farm leasing opportunities can also be distant from desired markets.

At the same time, farm transfers are often difficult due to family, business, legal and tax issues, and farms are at risk of being lost to development. 277,000 acres of farmland has been lost to real estate development in New Jersey since the 1980s.

Farmland Advisors New Jersey: A Training Program for Professionals Working with Farmers to Access and Transfer Farmland directly addressed these problems by training a network of diverse professionals to educate and support beginning farmers as they search for land, as well as senior farmers and non-farming landowners, to help them to make their land available to beginning farmers.

Educational Approach

Educational approach:

Farmland Advisors New Jersey: A Training Program for Professionals Working with Farmers to Access and Transfer Farmland trained a network of diverse professionals to educate and support beginning farmers as they search for land, as well as senior farmers and non-farming landowners, to help them to make their land available to beginning farmers.

A coach or an advisor can play a key role in supporting beginning farmers in finding viable farmland options and in motivating and educating farmland owners around transitioning their land to a new generation. The Farmland Advisors Program deployed a progressive “train the trainer” approach to build professional capacity for service providers to fill this role in New Jersey and better address these issues surrounding accessing and transferring farmland. The curriculum included a combination of webinars, full day workshops, peer to peer networking calls, and consultations with a professional coach. AFT utilized the Land Access Training curriculum developed by its national Farms for the Next Generation initiative team through a USDA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development program grant.

In consultation with the Farmland Advisors New Jersey Advisory Committee and AFT national staff, two additional preparatory webinars were added to the series of three topical webinar and workshop combinations originally proposed. This resulted in an overall schedule adjustment for the delivery of the webinars and workshops, as further detailed in the milestones section of this report. These two new webinars are:

  • Introduction to Farmland Advisors New Jersey: AFT staff led a one-hour webinar to facilitate virtual participant introductions, review of commitments, timeline and expectations, and introduce the Learning Action Plan.
  • Overview of Performance Based Learning: A curriculum development consultant from Worldwide Instructional Design System, whom was contracted to help design AFT’s national Land Access Training program, will join AFT staff to discuss the curriculum approach to educate, motivate and practice and why specifically it’s valuable for professionals addressing issues of farmland access and transfer.

Farmland Advisors New Jersey is a diverse group of professionals with the knowledge, hands-on and “soft” skills, professional networks and personal coaching to successfully assist beginning farmers, senior farmers and non-farming landowners to address the critical need of keeping farmers on the land in New Jersey.

Milestones

Milestone #1 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

RECRUITMENT
1. At least 100 professionals learn about the program through recruitment announcements.

Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
100
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
200
Proposed Completion Date:
April 30, 2018
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
June 30, 2018
Accomplishments:

Completed by June 30, 2018 because of schedule adjustments, AFT coordinated direct outreach among the 15 Farmland Advisors New Jersey Advisory Committee members to reach professionals across the state, including contacts within the land trust, cooperative extension, and Farm Bureau networks. 

Milestone #2 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

2. 25 professionals apply to participate in the program.

Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
25
Actual number of farmer beneficiaries who participated:
1
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
17
Proposed Completion Date:
May 31, 2018
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
June 30, 2018
Accomplishments:

AFT received 18 applications for the Farmland Advisors New Jersey program, including one from a beginning farmer. Professionals that applied included staff from county Rutgers Cooperative Extension teams, food and agricultural nonprofits, state and local land trusts, and state and federal agencies. This was completed by June 30, 2018 because of schedule adjustments.

Milestone #3 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

PRE-TRAINING ENGAGEMENT
3. 15 professionals are accepted into the program by June 2018 (with a desire for diversity among participants including race, gender, geography, type of organization) and complete a survey to assess competencies in farmland access and transfers.

Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
15
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
15
Proposed Completion Date:
July 31, 2018
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
December 16, 2018
Accomplishments:

Thanks to the outreach conducted by the Farmland Advisors New Jersey Advisory committee, AFT accepted 15 participants into the program in September 2018 and included a public announcement via press release (https://www.farmland.org/press-releases/american-farmland-trust-selects-farmland-advisors-for-advanced-training-in-new-jersey). Participants were accepted by September 7, 2018 and the survey was completed December 16, 2018. The Farmland Advisors New Jersey participants are:

  • Cali Alexander, M.A., H.O.
  • Gillian Armstrong, Agricultural Resource Specialist, New Jersey State Agriculture Development Committee
  • Amanda Brockwell, Director of Programs and Outreach, Monmouth Conservation Foundation
  • Kendrya Close, Executive Director, Foodshed Alliance
  • Katherine Coyle, Director, Morris County Agriculture Development Board
  • Gabi Grunstein, Agricultural Service Provider
    • Applied as an individual, but currently serving as County Executive Director for Monmouth, Mercer and
  • Middlesex Counties State Communication Coordinator for USDA Farm Service Agency
  • Adrian Hyde, Executive Director, NOFA-NJ
  • Tara Kenyon, Principal, Kenyon Planning, LLC
  • David Kimmel, Agricultural Resource Specialist, New Jersey State Agriculture Development Committee
  • Melanie Mason, Land Steward, New Jersey Conservation Foundation
  • Jennifer Matthews, program associate I, Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Cumberland and Cape May County
  • Meredith Melendez, Agricultural Agent, Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Mercer County
  • Rebecca Szotak, Program Associate II, Agriculture, Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Camden County
  • Laura Tessieri, Associate Director, North Jersey Resource Conservation & Development Council
  • Edward Wengryn, Research Associate, New Jersey Farm Bureau

These professionals were invited to participate in the Farmland Advisors New Jersey training program based on the following criteria:
– Commitment to participating in all aspects of the training over the three-year period
– Experience working with different communities of farmers and farmland owners
– Geographic diversity within the state
– Organizational diversity

The pre-survey was delayed in order to correspond with the two additional webinars and closed on December 16, 2018. Participants were asked to rate their knowledge and experience within certain topics, and expressed the most need in learning more about:
• Aiding farmers in assessing financial readiness in finding farmland (69%)
• Communications and negotiation between farmers and landowners (54%)
• Working with farmland investors (85%)
• Estate planning for farm transfer (77%)

NE-SARE-NJ-Morning-Ag-Press

Milestone #4 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

4. 15 professionals complete personal Learning Action Plans (LAPs) outlining goals for their participation in the program and intended ways that they will apply program concepts. LAPs will be updated after future in-person trainings to enable participants to reflect on the program curriculum and the connection with their personal goals.

Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
15
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
12
Proposed Completion Date:
September 30, 2018
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
April 8, 2019
Accomplishments:

FA-NJ-Learning-Action-Plan_November-2018

The introduction of personal LAPs was adjusted to coincide with the first webinar on November 29, 2018. The second half of the webinar presented the LAP tool to the Farmland Advisors. First drafts were due to AFT in advance of the second webinar on January 9, 2019 and will be used to further refine the subsequent webinars and workshops. In total, 12 out of 15 trainees participated in the first webinar. The proposed completion date has been changed to January 9, 2019.

During the second introductory webinar on January 9 participants discussed questions and reflections about the process of creating their LAPs. AFT received about half of LAPs prior to the first in-person training on April 8, 2019 and gave time for Farmland Advisors to work on LAPs at the training on April 8. At each of the following workshops, Farmland Advisors were asked to reflect on their LAPs and update them with any new ideas or plans to support farmers and farmland owners, and received final versions from 12 Farmland Advisors by December 4, 2019. LAPs were collected for all Farmland Advisors who received Implementation Stipends – the two participants who did not submit LAPs were unable to accept the stipend.

In their Learning Action Plans, participants expressed a desire to develop a network of experts and strengthen relationships with one another in order to share resources going forward. Participants also wanted to learn more about issues related to land access – like financial and personal readiness, education opportunities for new and experienced farmers in New Jersey, deed and land use restrictions, farm transfer and succession planning, land assessment, and leasing options – in order to better support farmers throughout the state. Several participants indicated that hosting a workshop or a series of workshops on land access is a primary goal in the coming years.

Milestone #5 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

LEARNING THROUGH EDUCATION PROGRAM

5. 15 professionals participate in an introductory webinar on fundamentals of farmland access for beginning farmers (October 2018) and continue learning and apply knowledge through more in-depth teaching, case studies, role playing and peer networking at 1-day workshop. (November 2018). The workshop participants complete a brief survey to provide feedback and reflect on future details to address in subsequent trainings. The 15 professionals reflect on learning by updating LAP goals and sharing with AFT (December 2018)

Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
15
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
12
Proposed Completion Date:
December 31, 2018
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
February 28, 2019
Accomplishments:

FA-NJ-Training-Outline_updated-01.19

This milestone completion date was changed to February 28, 2019 due to schedule adjustments.

The first webinar on fundamentals of farmland access for beginning farmers was held on January 23 and featured presentations on financial readiness from Keith Dickinson at Farm Credit East and personal readiness from Suzanna Denison at American Farmland Trust’s national Farms for the Next Generation program. After the webinar and before the in-person training Farmland Advisors were asked to review and simulate completing two worksheets related to assessing personal readiness (see attached) using knowledge from a farmer they were currently working with or another possible scenario. Participants were also asked to review sample financial statements (see attached) and develop their own personal balance sheet and monthly budget for February as homework related to assessing financial readiness. The in-person training was initially scheduled for February but was cancelled due to snow and rescheduled for May 22 at Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Mercer County in Ewing, NJ. At this training Keith Dickinson and Suzanna Denison expanded upon their previous webinar presentations in a day-long meeting focused on personal and financial readiness. Both the webinar and workshop were attended by 12 Farmland Advisors.

Evaluation results from the in-person session on May 22 showed that the training met the expectations of all but one participant who responded. That person responded that the content was too basic, whereas several others reported learning a lot and thought the information was “very valuable.” This highlights a challenge that we have seen throughout this project. There is a wide range of knowledge and skill level among Farmland Advisors – some have been working with farmers to access land for many years and came in feeling confident about their ability to support farmers and landowners, whereas others came in with very limited experience. It has been a challenge, therefore, to design the webinars and trainings to fit the needs of all participants and share useful knowledge and resources to those at all points on this spectrum.

Participants also found small-group breakout sessions and hands-on examples to be useful, as well as the financial information provided by Keith Dickinson.

Personal and Business Goals Worksheet

Land Tenure Readiness Self Assessment

Three Year Financial History

Three Year Production History

Property Owned and Leased

Farm Business Plan Worksheet

Projected Actual Income Expense Worksheet

Milestone #6 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

6. 15 professionals participate in a webinar to learn about techniques for accessing farmland, including secure farm leases, purchases and role of permanent land conservation in land access, as well as working with non-farming landowners. (January 2019) and continue learning and apply knowledge through more in-depth teaching, case studies, role playing and networking at 1-day workshop. (February 2019). The workshop participants complete a brief survey to provide feedback and reflect on future details to address in subsequent trainings. The 15 professionals reflect on learning by updating LAP goals and sharing with AFT. (March 2019).

Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
15
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
14
Proposed Completion Date:
March 31, 2019
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
April 30, 2019
Accomplishments:

This milestone completion date was changed to April 30, 2019 due to schedule adjustments.

The second webinar on techniques for assessing farmland was held on March 13 and the in-person training was held on April 8 at Duke Farms in Hillsborough, NJ. There were 14 attendees for the webinar and 13 attendees for the in-person training. In preparation for the in-person training, attendees were asked to review resources available on the NJ State Agriculture Development Committee’s (SADC) Leasing Farmland webpage. Charles Roohr and Cindy Roberts from SADC presented a session in the morning entitled “Preparing Farmers to Secure Land Through Leasing or Purchase” using materials from AFT’s Land Access Training curriculum (see attached). Charles and Cindy were trained and certified by AFT as Land Access Trainers, developed through support from the USDA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, to deliver this curriculum designed to increase the proficiency of service providers in supporting beginning farmers seeking secure land tenure.  In the afternoon, Dave Clapp, also from SADC, led a session entitled “Assessing Land Suitability” which included classroom instruction (see attached) and an on-farm assessment activity (see attached) at Duke Farms.

In their evaluations, respondents reported that the in-person session met their expectations. Participants particularly appreciated the opportunity to work together in small groups and learn from one another, as well as many of the online and printed resources shared at the training from the Land Access Training curriculum.

The curriculum was minimally adapted to use in training with program participants. The full curriculum is too large to attach as a media file but can be found on the Farmland Information Center here.

Contract Components Activity

SADC Land Assessment class

Sample_Purchase_and_Sale_Agreement

SADC Land Assessment

Milestone #7 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

7. 15 professionals participate in a webinar to learn about farm transfer planning, including common goals and barriers, tools and available resources to help senior farmers and landowners. (April 2019) and continue learning and apply knowledge through more in-depth teaching, case studies, role playing and peer networking at 1-day workshop (June 2019). The workshop participants complete a brief survey to provide feedback and reflect on future details to address in subsequent trainings. The 15 professionals and reflect on learning by updating LAP goals and sharing with AFT. (July 2019).

Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
15
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
10
Proposed Completion Date:
July 31, 2018
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
June 30, 2019
Accomplishments:

This milestone completion date was changed to June 30, 2019 due to schedule adjustments.

The third webinar on farmland transfer was held on May 15 with 10 participants and the in-person training was held on June 11 at Farm Credit East in Bridgeton, NY with 7 participants.

In the morning Jerry Cosgrove from American Farmland Trust discussed the importance of communication and assessing farmers’ goals and values, and Keith Dickinson described the different types of farm transfer and the key traits of a farm transfer team. In the afternoon Keith addressed the critical tools that can be used for farm transfer and Jerry finished out the day by addressing the role of conservation options in a successful farm transfer. Please see attached materials regarding farm transfer.

AFT planned each in-person training in a different region of New Jersey to make them accessible to all participants, given that participants are scattered throughout the state. This final workshop took place in southern NJ and proved to be more difficult to get to for most of the Farmland Advisors, hence the lower attendance rate than anticipated. Several Farmland Advisors were able to join remotely.  

The in-person session met the expectations of all evaluation respondents. Participants noted, again, that walking though examples together was very helpful, as was learning specifics about conservation options.

Glossary of Land Transfer Terms

Understanding Perspectives Worksheet

Selling an Agricultural Conservation Easement

Milestone #8 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

8. 15 professionals complete interim survey to assess change in skills and knowledge and share goals and progress towards implementing LAP (July 2019)

Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
15
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
14
Proposed Completion Date:
July 31, 2019
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
March 30, 2020
Accomplishments:

This milestone completion date has been changed to February 28, 2020 due to schedule adjustments.

In August 2019, AFT held check-in calls with each of the 14 Farmland Advisors to discuss their Learning Action Plans and provide support towards their goals.

The interim survey was distributed in February 2020. Responses from the survey show that the vast majority of participants increased their knowledge and experience related to farmland access and transfer.

  • 92% of respondents increased their knowledge and experience assisting farmers in securing access to farmland in areas like helping beginning farmers develop personal and business goals, assessing financial readiness, finding available farmland, evaluating farmland, and communications between farmers and landowners.
  • 69% increased their knowledge and experience with tools to support farmland access like farmland leasing, fee purchases, working with non-farming landowners, working with farmland investors, and agricultural conservation easements including affordability provisions.
  • 85% increased their knowledge of tools pertaining to farmland access like organizations and programs, print and online materials, and community partners.
  • 75% increased their knowledge and experience related to farm transfer planning in areas like estate planning, retirement and farm management transfer planning, coordinating a team of service providers, land conservation options, and soft skills like communications, goal setting, and value assessment.
  • 58% increased their knowledge of tools pertaining to farmland transfer like organizations and programs, print and online materials, and community partners.

 

Milestone #9 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

ENGAGEMENT TO SUPPORT ACTION
9. 15 professionals participate in peer networking calls (ongoing following completion of webinars and workshops) and share knowledge and experience regarding targeted topics, such as leasing publicly owned farmland or starting a conversation with non-farming landowners, or progress in implementing their LAPs.

Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
15
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
14
Proposed Completion Date:
February 28, 2021
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
February 24, 2021
Accomplishments:

Farmland advisors have participated in one networking call on September 19, 2019 with more to come in 2020. On September 19 Farmland Advisors updated the group on what they were currently working on related to farmland access and transition, and shared events and resources that might be of interest to others on the call. AFT staff also walked through the updated Verification Support Tool (see attached) that Farmland Advisors will use to track their progress toward the goals in their Learning Action Plans. This led into a broader discussion about the process that Farmland Advisors take when a farmer walks into their office. Participants shared strategies, tools, and resources that they use when engaging with farmers and farmland owners around land access and transfer. They were also able to ask questions of their fellow Farmland Advisors about tracking and intake. Most are currently using simple systems involving email and Excel spreadsheets to keep track of inquiries and follow-up.  

Several Farmland Advisors participated in the webinar “Where Does New Jersey Stand?” on June 10, 2020, which explored the findings of Farms Under Threat: State of the States report in New Jersey.  This extensive new research from American Farmland Trust provided groundbreaking new data that answer the questions: How threatened is New Jersey’s agricultural land? What is the state doing to protect it? What can New Jersey learn from other states? The webinar looked at the finings and gave an overview of the tools now available to help planners, land protection practitioners, policymakers and advocates strengthen and expand agricultural land retention and protection efforts in New Jersey.

In June 2020, after the pandemic had begun, AFT staff held one-on-one calls with Farmland Advisors. Farmland Advisors shared details about their work with farmland owners and seekers, as well as changes they were seeing in agriculture in New Jersey. For example, some Advisors’ focus had shifted somewhat from land access to testing workers and addressing fears of a labor shortage if migrant workers were prevented from traveling due to COVID-19.

AFT held a networking call on August 20, 2020 to provide an opportunity for Farmland Advisors to reconnect and discuss their work. The call allowed the group to discuss how their work has shifted due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the kinds of new challenges they are seeing in land access and transfer. Erica Goodman also led a review of the Farms Under Threat: State of the States report and a discussion about new or amplified threats the participants are seeing in New Jersey. For example, events that had been canceled in the early spring were moving to online platforms or being rescheduled for the fall and winter. Advisors talked about the work they are doing with farmers to create written leases, noting the challenges that hand-shake leases present to both farmland access and implementation of conservation practices. This is especially important given the increase in demand for farmland seen as folks living in cities look to more rural areas during the pandemic. They also talked more broadly about agriculture in New Jersey, noting the increased demand for local products, especially meat and vegetables. Several advisors also discussed the challenges of working with farmland owners to find farmers to grow on their land.

On January 11 Laura Barley and Cris Coffin joined Farmland Advisors to discuss the Agricultural Viability Index (AVI) and the National Agricultural Lands Network (NALN).  

The AVI, developed by Laura and other staff at American Farmland Trust, is a pioneering attempt to evaluate and compare agricultural viability across New England, New York, and New Jersey, ultimately assessing whether community can sustain profitable farm enterprises, support local wealth creation through agriculture, and keep land in farming for future generations. Laura Barley walked through the AVI website with Farmland Advisors and answered questions about how the site may be useful for their work in New Jersey.  

NALN is a learning and knowledge exchange network for individuals and organizations focused on agricultural land protection; it will offer policy education and updates but will not promote or take positions on specific legislation. NALN Director Cris Coffin discussed the future of the network in New Jersey, opportunities to connect, and answered questions about the network’s work.  

Farmland Advisors met for the final time on February 24. For the first half of the call participants shared their accomplishments throughout the program. Some of these accomplishments and themes are outlined below in Milestone #11.  

For the second half participants heard from Leah Osborn, the consultant to helped AFT create the Land Access Training (LAT) curriculum, about how to adapt the curriculum, which was the foundation of the early Farmland Advisors training session, for their individual and programmatic needs. All respondents to the final survey plan to use the LAT curriculum in their future work. Respondents mentioned resources and modules in the curriculum about succession planning, readiness assessment, goal setting, farm transfer, and long-term leases as elements they plan to use.  

NJ Verification Support Tool FINAL

Milestone #10 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

10. 15 professionals receive personal coaching and LAP Implementation Stipends to support the implementation of their LAPs with farmers following completion of webinars and workshops. (Ongoing)

Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
15
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
14
Proposed Completion Date:
February 28, 2021
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
July 30, 2020
Accomplishments:

In August, AFT held check-in calls with all Farmland Advisors to discuss their Learning Action Plans, their goals for the coming months and years, and to find out what, if any, additional support they needed to accomplish those goals. Since then, AFT staff have followed up with Farmland Advisors as necessary to provide support, resources, and connections with other experts, and will continue to do so as needed.

In addition, AFT offered Implementation Stipends of $900 to all Farmland Advisors to support the goals in their Learning Action Plans. Eight Farmland Advisors accepted an Implementation Stipend. The first installment of $450 was distributed at the end of 2019 and the second installment of $450 was distributed to those 8 Farmland Advisors by July 2020.

As an example, the State Agriculture Development Committee plans to make improvements to the New Jersey Land Link website using their stipend. They will add a list of Farmland Advisors to the site as a resource so that farm seekers and landowners can connect with service providers across the state, make the Resources page easier to use on desktops and mobile devices, and improve the intake process to get more information from users as they engage with the site in order to better support them in their search for land or for a farmer for their land.

There were 13 responses to the interim survey. 

14 agricultural service providers participated in personal coaching and 8 received implementation stipends. Implementation stipends were offered to all participants, but only 8 ASPs pursued the opportunity.

Milestone #11 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

FINAL VERIFICATION
11. 15 professionals complete final survey to assess change in skills and knowledge, LAP implementation and farmer action steps taken. (February 2021)

Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
15
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
8
Proposed Completion Date:
February 28, 2021
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
March 31, 2021
Accomplishments:

The final survey was distributed in February 2021. Responses from the survey show that the vast majority of participants increased their knowledge and experience related to farmland access and transfer. Eight responses were received.  

  • 88% of respondents increased their knowledge and experience assisting farmers in securing access to farmland in areas like helping beginning farmers develop personal and business goals, assessing financial readiness, finding available farmland, evaluating farmland, and communications between farmers and landowners.  
  • 100% increased their knowledge of tools pertaining to farmland access like organizations and programs, print and online materials, and community partners.  
  • 88% increased their knowledge and experience related to farm transfer planning in areas like estate planning, retirement and farm management transfer planning, coordinating a team of service providers, land conservation options, and soft skills like communications, goal setting, and value assessment.  
  • 75% increased their knowledge of tools pertaining to farmland transfer like organizations and programs, print and online materials, and community partners. 
  • 100% plan to use the Land Access Training Curriculum in their future work with farmers and landowners.  

Participants noted in the survey that the most important element of the program was the structure that allowed them to meet one another and get to know each others’ strengths and experience. Several people noted that the network built is valuable for their work connecting farm seekers with land and helping senior farmers transfer their farms to a new generation. Several participants also highlighted the NJ Land Link and associated resources, which many learned about through this program, and which was improved through an LAP stipend, as important tools in their work. In particular, participants found resources regarding financial planning and readiness very helpful.  

Milestone Activities and Participation Summary

Educational activities and events conducted by the project team:

1 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
2 Published press articles, newsletters
8 Webinars / talks / presentations

Beneficiaries who participated in the project’s educational activities and events:

3 Extension
1 NRCS
4 Nonprofit
2 Agency
4 Ag service providers (other or unspecified)
1 Farmers/ranchers
1 Farmers
14 Number of agricultural educator or service providers reached through education and outreach activities

Learning Outcomes

13 Agricultural service providers reported changes in knowledge, skills and/or attitudes as a result of their participation.
323 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation
8 Ag service providers intend to use knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness learned through this project in their educational activities and services for farmers
Key areas in which the service providers (and farmers if indicated above) reported a change in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness::

The Verification Support Tool was used to track workshops, trainings, and technical assistance provided to farmers looking for farmland, and farmers and landowners looking to make their land available for farming and transfer it to the next generation.

According to Verification Support Tools submitted by Farmland Advisors, the target outcomes below were met and exceeded. Farmland Advisors educated or advised over 300 farmers and landowners, working on over 2,500 acres of land. About 230 of those farmers and landowners were supported individually, and 90 were supported through workshops and other events. For example, FoodShed Alliance held a Farmland Leasing Networking Event in January of 2020. At the event farmland seekers learned about leasing opportunities through their SAgE program and met county staff to support agricultural programming.

In addition, over 100 farmers took action towards accessing land or keeping their land in farming. Actions included creating profiles on the NJ Farm Link, pursuing a conservation easement with a land trust, farmers meeting with landowners to discuss a lease, or assessing a property to determine if it fits a farmer’s needs. Several additional themes emerged in the Verification Support tools that participants submitted:

- Farmland advisors provided critical support to farmers to access land. Advisors must adapt to meet farmers where they are, and, importantly, the work does not end once farmers have accessed land. Several advisors reported working with farmers and answering questions well after leases were signed or properties purchased.
- Farmland advisors commonly work with aspiring farmers to help manage their expectations about farming will be like or what they can afford to do. This is important to ensure long-term success in farming.
- One participant reported working with their county government to improve the county’s farmland leasing practices.
- The State Agricultural Development Committee made key improvements to the NJ Land Link website. Improvements included making the resources section more accessible and user-friendly and providing space during profile creation for users to share more information.
- For some farm seekers, deciding not to farm is really a success. Recognizing the reality of farming and avoiding bad matches are positive outcomes in the long run for some.
- A robust team of support is important to farm seeker and landowner success. Advisors play an important role helping to assemble that team of support, which can include lawyers, accountants, appraisers, etc.

Performance Target Outcomes

Performance Target Outcomes - Service Providers

Target #1

Target: number of service providers who will take action to educate/advise farmers:
15
Target: actions the service providers will take:

15 professionals in New Jersey who become prepared to advise beginning farmers in accessing farmland and senior farmers and non-farming landowners in providing access to or transferring farmland will teach 250 farmers about options, and help 50 farmers take steps to access or transfer farmland.

Target: number of farmers the service providers will educate/advise:
250
Verified: number of service providers who reported taking actions to educate/advice farmers:
8
Verified: number of farmers the service providers reported educating/advising through their actions:
323
Verified: amount of production these farmers manage:

Over 2,500 acres

Activities for farmers conducted by service providers:
  • 323 Consultations
  • 5 Webinars/talks/presentations
8 Total number of 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
323 Farmers reached through participant's programs
Performance target outcome for service providers narrative:

The verified outcome data above was reported using the Verification Support Tool. All 14 participants were asked to submit the Verification Support Tool, but only 8 participants, representing 6 organizations, submitted the completed tool. Even with the limited number of participants utilizing the Verification Support Tool, most targets were met. While the program began with 15 participant service providers, one was unable to participate for the entire project. Participants primarily reported in two categories: direct assistance and workshops & events.  For direct assistance, participants reported the number of farmers and farmland owners who they supported through direct assistance, the number of acres managed by that farmer or farmland owner, the farmer or farmland owner’s area of interest, the type of service provided, and any follow up action planned. For workshops & events, participants reported the date of the event, a title or brief description, and the number of attendees broken down by farm seeker, farming landowner, non-farming landowner, and service provider.  

Performance Target Outcomes - Farmers

Target #1

Target: number of farmers who will make a change/adopt of practice:
50
Target: the change or adoption the farmers will make:
50 farmers who manage/aspire to manage 1,000 acres take steps to access or transfer farmland such as completing a farmland suitability or farm transfer readiness assessment or making listings on the NJ LandLink website.
Verified: number of farmers who made a change/adopted a practice:

100
Performance target outcome for farmers narrative:

Over 100 farmers took action towards accessing land or keeping their land in farming. Actions included creating profiles on the NJ Farm Link, pursuing a conservation easement with a land trust, farmers meeting with landowners to discuss a lease, or assessing a property to determine if it fits a farmer’s needs. 

Additional Project Outcomes

1 Grant applied for that built upon this project
1 Grant received that built upon this project
$15,000.00 Dollar amount of grant received that built upon this project
Additional Outcomes Narrative:

As previously noted, the number of webinars and the timeline for completing the webinars and workshops shifted from the initial proposal. In consultation with the Farmland Advisors New Jersey Advisory Committee and AFT national staff, two additional preparatory webinars were added to the series of three topical webinar and workshop combinations. These two new webinars are:
– Introduction to Farmland Advisors New Jersey: AFT staff led a one-hour webinar to facilitate virtual participant introductions, review of commitments, timeline and expectations, and introduce the Learning Action Plan (Completed in November 2018)
– Overview of Performance Based Learning: A curriculum development consultant from Worldwide Instructional Design System, whom was contracted to help design AFT’s national Land Access Training program, will join AFT staff to discuss the curriculum approach to educate, motivate and practice and why specifically it’s valuable for professionals addressing issues of farmland access and transfer. (January 2019)

AFT also led the following series of webinars and workshops as originally projected but at an adjusted timeline.

• Topic I: Introduction to land tenure, fundamentals of farmland access, and assessing readiness of beginning farmers
o Webinar: January 2019
o Workshop: February 2019

• Topic II: Techniques for accessing farmland, including secure farm leases, purchases and role of permanent land conservation in land access, as well as working with non-farming landowners
o Webinar: March 2019
o Workshop: April 2019

• Topic III: Farm transfer planning, including common goals and barriers, tools and available resources to help senior farmers and landowners
o Webinar: May 2019
o Workshop: June 2019

Overall, these dates align more closely with the next stages of completion for the Farmland for the Next Generation Land Access Training that is serving as a guide for the Farmland Advisors Curriculum.

Success stories:

The following quotes were submitted by program participants in the final survey: 

“I…very much appreciated [information regarding] Farms Under ThreatAgricultural Viability Index and the List of Farmer Resources. Thank you for the opportunity to participate!!”  – Rutgers Extension Agent in central New Jersey 

“The ability to learn from others while also sharing knowledge is a much more effective way of broadening skills compared to the alternative of sending out emails with resources. We need the hand holding in order to fully understand and conceptualize how to use tools available.” – Director at a conservation non-profit in northern New Jersey 

“…the networking was a great component of this program.” – Rutgers Extension Agent in central New Jersey 

Assessment of Project Approach and Areas of Further Study:

The workshops for this program were planned on separate days in different locations. The idea was to give participants multiple opportunities to meet, interact, get to know one another, and to spread the events out so that they would be accessible to all participants. We found that participants often arrived late or had to leave early for work or personal reasons, and did not have an opportunity to network or build community at these one-day workshops. In retrospect, we would have planned these workshops as a two-day conference in one location, ideally in proximity to a farm for learning activities. So much of this work depends on professional and personal connection – service providers getting to know one another and building trust.  

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.