Farmland Tenure: A Tool Kit

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2004: $103,130.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2007
Region: Western
State: California
Principal Investigator:
Steve Schwartz
California FarmLink

Annual Reports


Not commodity specific


  • Education and Training: extension, farmer to farmer, focus group, technical assistance
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns, community-supported agriculture, risk management
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems
  • Soil Management: soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: new business opportunities, partnerships, sustainability measures, quality of life

    Proposal abstract:

    California FarmLink’s proposal ‘Farmland Tenure: A Tool Kit’ will research and summarize alternative land tenure models for producers; analyze trends in California farmland tenure; assess the role of, and options for, public agencies to lease out agricultural lands; and analyze the applicability of policies from around the country that could facilitate land tenure opportunities in California and other western states. This research will be compiled and reported in a comprehensive tenure models handbook that will provide farmers with background, case studies, legal templates, and sample language for a variety of options to achieve long-term land tenure. It will provide decision-makers with policy recommendations, and public agencies with information and guidelines on how to create land tenure agreements with farmers. The project represents a unique collaboration between producers, grassroots non-profit organizations, and several academic institutions and disciplines. Farmers and the land they cultivate are an essential part of healthy agricultural communities, whether rural or on the urban fringe. In order to help beginning farmers to obtain long-term land tenure in the face of development and increasing land prices, new and innovative options must be explored. Affordable access to land is a means of assuring both small farm viability and sound land stewardship. Without long-term tenure agreements, implementing good stewardship practices on the farm may be difficult to justify economically. By facilitating research, policy changes, and producer knowledge that can help farmers gain long-term access to farmland, this project will directly add to the sustainability of our food system. The project will address the land tenure options including: Cash-rent leases from private, governmental, and non-profit entities (including language requiring specific sustainable stewardship practices) Intergenerational transfer with installment sale, lease option, and gifting. Community land trust and land pooling. Long-term lease (99 year/lifetime) and inheritable lease options. Limited liability corporation ownership with lease to non-profit entity. Cooperative ownership of land and/or farm business with profile of legal options. Fee title purchase and sale of conservation easement(s).

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Goal 1: Increase knowledge of trends in land tenure arrangements utilized by California farmers.

    A. Review and analyze 1992, 1997, and 2002 Census of Agricultural Data (Mo. 3-7)
    B. Distribute surveys to 500 California agricultural producers on obstacles & solutions to obtaining land tenure and connections between tenure length and stewardship practices. (Mo. 1-5)
    C. Survey producers and the agricultural professionals serving them regarding policy options to facilitate easier access to long-term tenure options. (Mo. 13-18)

    Goal 2: Assist at least 500 farmers and ranchers in developing long-term land tenure agreements by providing a clear, concise guide to land-tenure options.

    A. Compile a handbook on land tenure models including case studies and sample legal language.
    B. Translate key sections of land tenure handbook to Spanish. (Mo. 10-12)
    C. Present land tenure information at 6 trainings for beginning farmers. (Mo. 8-24)
    D. Distribute land tenure model information and case studies to at least 500 farmers. (Mo. 10-30)
    E. Post land tenure models, case studies and legal language on the World Wide Web. (Mo. 12-16)
    F. Survey and interviews at least 30 recipients of the handbook to evaluate impact.(Mo. 30-33)

    Goal 3: Provide key decision-makers with policy options for increasing long-term tenure opportunities for beginning farmers.

    A. Survey at least 20 public agencies (special districts, etc.) to study the legal and social barriers to leasing lands to farmers, and interview representatives of at least 3 public agencies that do lease land to agricultural producers to learn about their process and the tools they used. (Mo. 13-18)
    B. Distribute a summary of recommendations for leasing land to beginning farmers to at least 20 public agencies and governments in California, and post on the World Wide Web. (Mo. 16-22)
    C. Analyze the applicability of policies around the country that facilitate land tenure. (Mo. 13-18)
    D. Develop a list of specific policy recommendations appropriate to California, distribute to policy decision makers, and make findings available from the World Wide Web. (Mo.18-22)
    E. Share project findings, land tenure publications, and policy recommendations with organizations from 20 states through the National Farm Transition Network. (Mo. 12 and 24)

    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.