Transitioning farm and ranch land from one family to another: Evaluating new strategies for profitable transfers and sustainable agriculture partnerships

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2016: $199,566.00
Projected End Date: 11/30/2019
Grant Recipient: Indiana University
Region: North Central
State: Indiana
Project Coordinator:
Dr. James Farmer
Indiana University
Dr. Julia Valliant
Indiana University

Information Products


Not commodity specific


  • Education and Training: extension, farmer to farmer, focus group, mentoring, networking, participatory research
  • Farm Business Management: cooperatives, budgets/cost and returns, agricultural finance, labor/employment, risk management, whole farm planning
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture
  • Sustainable Communities: community planning, local and regional food systems, new business opportunities, partnerships, analysis of personal/family life, employment opportunities, social capital, social networks

    Proposal abstract:

    Programs across the NCR are working to introduce farm seekers to farmers who lack a family successor or to landowners who do not farm. The consensus is that these “linking” programs lead to few matches, due in part to an imbalance: farm seekers inundate programs with interest while farmer/landowner participation is low.  The ratio can be ten to one.  This project will assess lessons learned during the 20-year experience of the NCR’s linking programs to identify Best Management Practices (BMPs) for supporting farm transfer between unrelated parties.  The assessment will be enhanced by including other models for fostering collaboration between experienced and aspiring farmers.  We will assess 44 programs, most of which SARE has funded, an investment of $1.8 million.  Findings will be used to improve existing programs and develop frameworks for new programs.  The project will monitor effects of project outreach on farm transfer program models and landowner participation. The project will interview program leaders and survey/interview participating farmers/ranchers and landowners.  Recording case studies of four farms/ranches and StoryCorps interviews with 24 farmers will complete data collection.  Outreach will publish findings in an Extension manual and academic journals; deliver conference presentations and a webinar; and broadcast farmers’ stories of successful transitions to new owners via radio and podcast.  Findings will also inform frameworks for pilot program models in Kansas and Indiana, which have yet to launch a farm transfer venture. Outcomes include: NCR programs apply project findings, improving services Kansas and Indiana initiate the planning of farm transfer programs Farmers’ successful transition stories and models reach other farmers A 25% increase in landowner participation in NCR farm transfer programs from current levels 226+ farmers/ranchers will participate directly in the project and it will reach thousands more via radio/podcast outreach.  Farmers, non-farming landowners, and aspiring farmers will learn about models for farm transitions. Farmers and farm seekers will benefit from improvements that programs make in response to project findings.  The goal is for more families to be able to continue their farm by successfully transferring to a new farmer. Project partners: Indiana University (lead), Kansas Rural Center (Major Participant), Center for Rural Affairs (Nebraska), Purdue University, Land For Good (New Hampshire).  Outreach: StoryCorps, MOSES, Successful Farmer Radio Magazine, Earth Eats / Harvest Public Media, Farmer to Farmer Podcast.

    Project objectives from proposal:


    • Farmers without a family successor
    • Non-farming landowners
    • Farm seekers
    • Programs, policymakers, and investors supporting farm transfers

    Action outcomes

    • Kansas and Indiana initiate the planning of farm transfer programs
    • The NCR’s farm transfer programs apply Best Practices, improving services
    • A 25% increase in landowner participation in NCR farm transfer programs

    Learning outcomes

    • Farmers’ successful transition stories reach project audiences
    • Identify models for transferring farms alternative to seller/buyer matches (mentoring, land trusts, work-in partnerships, incubators)

    System change outcomes

    • More sustainable agricultural operations continue, or begin, on farms transitioned between unrelated parties
    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.