- Education and Training: technical assistance, decision support system, farmer to farmer, focus group, networking
- Farm Business Management: agricultural finance, risk management, whole farm planning
- Production Systems: transitioning to organic
- Sustainable Communities: analysis of personal/family life, sustainability measures
Project summary: The agricultural community in Southeastern Massachusetts faces a loss of critical mass. Recent development pressures have led to the loss of so many farms that regional farm infrastructure is eroding. To revitalize and sustain our community, we must enable new and second-generation producers to begin farming in our region through a “Farm-Link” effort. Many state-wide and Northeastern Land-Link programs offer valuable resources for our region. The New England Small Farm Institute, Land For Good’s effort to develop the Farm Planning Transfer Network of New England, and others have much to offer. However, unique features of our area—extremely high listed land values, the prevalence of non-farming landowners, and the need for major changes in farm infrastructure between traditional commodities (dairy, cranberries) and new crops and models—mean that some issues are best addressed locally. One particular need is to research the next generation of Farm-Link solutions—creative financing and land tenure models being pioneered in California, Europe, and elsewhere—to determine if they are workable in our region. Developing an effective Farm-Link effort in Southeastern Massachusetts will require a focused and coordinated partnership that utilizes state and regional resources while addressing specific local challenges. We have identified our region’s network of 9 local town agricultural commissions, local land trusts, and for-profit service providers as key partners in this effort. We request support from NESARE/NRCRD to support active development of this partnership and collaborative research, planning, and fundraising for a Farm-Link effort. Our partnership-building effort under this proposal will include assembling an advisory committee, holding farmer focus groups to clarify local challenges, conducting research into innovative national and international land tenure/transfer models, creating an action plan for a local Farm-Link effort, and implementing fundraising to launch these efforts. A successful project will bring new producers into our region, revitalize our agricultural community, help sustain an independent local economy of small businesses, and work against suburbanization.
Project objectives from proposal:
As a regional non-profit with a core of strong partnerships, SEMAP will work to develop this partnership and collaboratively begin research, planning, and fundraising for local Farm-Link effort that draws on a wide array of existing efforts and resources while identifying specific issues for local attention.
Our partnership-building effort under this proposal will include the following components:
1. Assemble an advisory committee for the project consisting of representatives from:
a. Local Town Agricultural Commissions**
b. Local Land Trusts
c. For-profit consultants
e. Other planning, development, or agricultural organizations.
2. Assemble 2 focus groups to clarify local Farm-Link challenges and needs from the perspective of the ultimate target audience, consisting of:
a. Beginning farmers
b. Retiring farmers
c. Non-farming landowners.
3. Inventory and seek information from state-wide and Northeast-wide programs and partners that can provide expertise and information, including:
a. New England Small Farm Institute
b. Land For Good / Farm Planning Transfer Network of New England
c. NY and VT Land-Link
d. American Farmland Trust
e. Growing New Farmers Project
f. Others as identified
4. Conduct research to identify innovative national and international models of land tenure and land transfer that can be applied to our high real-estate value environment.
a. Farm Retirement Scheme (European Union)
b. Installment Purchase Agreement (Howard County, MD)
c. Affirmative farming clauses in conservation easements (CA FarmLink).
5. Develop an action plan for the full Farm-Link effort and set goals and outcomes that will be used to seek ongoing funding.
6. Implement a fundraising effort to establish the full Farm-Link effort. We are confident that developing a strong project team and a concrete action plan will greatly increase the project’s appeal to other funders.