Conserved farmland access
Access to sufficient farmland is a top challenge for beginning and existing farmers. This project is working to improve access to farmland and provide more secure land tenure for farm seekers in Cheshire County New Hampshire. Leasing land is often a desirable solution for beginning, and established, farmers that cannot afford to buy a farm. There are considerable challenges with bringing farmers and landowners together, and to building strong lease agreements between them. The challenge is as much about finding, preparing and supporting landowners as it is supporting farmers. The landowner category that we are targeting are owners of land encumbered by conservation easements as we believe they will be most amenable to making their land available for farming, or to improving farming tenure. As a group, these landowners have demonstrated an appreciation for the public benefits of their properties’ natural resources, and they are not planning future development.
Our approach in this project has been to work with landowners of conserved properties to successfully bring or keep farmers on their land. The goals of this project are to: learn more about the interests, concerns and needs of owners of conserved farmland; educate and support farm seekers, including about farming on conserved land; and bring these two groups together to pursue mutually beneficial land tenure agreements. Methodology has included creating an advisory committee, offering two focus groups, surveying farmers and conservation landowners, providing two educational workshops, offering one-on-one technical assistance, and creating case studies to be used in outreach to farmers and conservation landowners.
First we established an Advisory Committee comprised of farmers and non-farming conservation landowners to offer guidance and direction for the project. These advisors are working with the project team to design the elements of the project that include the focus groups, survey and education as well as ground truth our approaches and findings.
Secondly we held two focus groups—one for landowners and one for farmers. We hired a trained facilitator, David Chase, to run the groups. The Advisory Committee with Chase developed a set of questions for each focus group. We recorded and transcribed the sessions to maximize retention and analysis of the information participants share. Our lines of inquiry focused on social and quality of life parameters, including: land conservation motives; land management goals; experiences with active farming on their conserved land; interests and concerns about farm leasing; and information and support needs.
With information from the focus groups, we surveyed approximately fifty landowners in the MC databases. We also surveyed farmers about their land-related interests and needs, with a particular focus on their understanding of agricultural conservation easements and their willingness to consider farming on conserved land. This has given us valuable feedback about farmers’ awareness of and concerns about farming on conserved land.
Based on the information and data gathered from focus groups and surveys, we have designed 2 educational workshops. The target audience was landowners and farmers. Mixing these audiences will give both a chance to hear from the each other. There was content for farming on conserved land, crafting strong lease agreements, etc. as well as meet-and-greet opportunities for interested lessees and lessors.
Three case studies are being developed. A draft of these is complete and will be reviewed by project partners in January 2016.
Our project team has been successful in reaching all of our targets to date. The final two milestones remaining is the completion of the case studies and press campaign.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
Please see the attached results of the two surveys conducted in 2014.
97 Old County Rd
Westmoreland, NH 03467
Office Phone: 6033999975
Land For Good
39 Central Square, Suie 306
Keene, NH 03431
Office Phone: 6033571600
Agricultural Resources Educator
UNH Cooperative Extension
800 Park Ave
Keene, NH 03431
Office Phone: 6033524550
97 Shirley Hill Rd
Goffstown, NH 03045
Office Phone: 6038016839
424 Tilton Hill Rd
Pittsfield, NH 03263
Office Phone: 7723411850
15 Eagle Ct
Keene, NH 03431
Office Phone: 6033570600