Farmland access and transfer are among the biggest challenges for new and established farmers across New England. Maine Farmland Trust recently convened a conference to tackle some of the issues surrounding farmland access, in partnership with Land For Good and American Farmland Trust. The conference, held in New Gloucester, Maine on October 19, highlighted the obstacles and opportunities to help farmers, landowners and communities get farmers on the land and keep land in farming.
The event attracted 135 attendees, and included farmers seeking land, retiring or transitioning farmers, non-farming landowners, land trusts, lawyers, lenders, accountants, and all manner of nonprofit service providers who work to support farmers. In-depth workshops catered to each group, and covered tricky topics, like farm transfer planning, creating successful farmland leases, financing a farm purchase, and innovative land access tools, like agricultural easements and the option to purchase at agricultural value. Workshop panels were led by respected professionals working in the field around the region, in Maine, Vermont, and Massachusetts, as well as working farmers who shared their on-the-ground experiences.
“Finding ways to support successful and sustainable farm transfer and access is one of the most important efforts underway in the Maine food system today," said Erica Buswell, who organized the event and is the Beginning Farmer Services Coordinator at Maine Farmland Trust. "Our goal for the conference was to provide the opportunity to share stories from the frontlines of farm transfer and access, and also a lot of practical information about how to address the challenges associated with these tasks. The fact that so many people from so many perspectives attended and shared really made the event a success.”
Ellen Sabina is the Outreach Director at Maine Farmland Trust and aims to amplify the stories of the local food and farm movement in Maine. She currently sits on MOFGA's Education Committee and National Resources Council of Maine's Rising Leadership Group, and dreams of someday starting a flower farm.