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


    The project researched and summarized alternative land tenure models for producers; analyzed trends in California farmland tenure; and assessed options for public agencies to lease out agricultural lands. The project researched more than 20 land tenure options. This research was reported in a comprehensive tenure models handbook that provides farmers with background, case studies, and sample language for fifteen distinct options to achieve long-term land tenure. It provided public agencies with information regarding how to create land tenure agreements with farmers. The project represented a unique collaboration between producers, grassroots non-profit organizations and several academics.

    Project objectives:

    • 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
      B. Distribute surveys to 500 California agricultural producers on obstacles & solutions to obtaining land tenure and connections between tenure length and stewardship practices.
      C. Survey producers and agricultural professionals serving them regarding policy options to facilitate easier access to long-term tenure options.

      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.
      C. Present land tenure information at 6 trainings for beginning farmers.
      D. Distribute land tenure model information and case studies to at least 500 farmers.
      E. Post land tenure models, case studies and legal language on the World Wide Web.
      F. Survey and interview at least 30 recipients of the handbook to evaluate impact.

      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.
      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.
      C. Analyze the applicability of policies around the country that facilitate land tenure.
      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.
      E. Share project findings, land tenure publication and policy recommendations with organizations from 20 states through the National Farm Transition Network.

    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.