AUGUSTA — Farmers will learn strategies for tackling succession planning and incorporating an easement into farm access or transfer plans, as well as how to find and secure farmland, negotiate a lease agreement, and more at a conference hosted by Land For Good and Maine Farmland Trust.
The deadline for registering for the fourth annual Farmland Access & Transfer Conference is Wednesday, Nov. 28. The conference is Monday, Dec. 3, at the Augusta Civic Center.
Accessing land or transferring ownership of a farm is an intensely personal experience. The conference — the only one of its kind in the region — will offer training, resources and instructive case studies.
In addition, the gathering will feature strategies from the field, like the experiences of BrennaMae Googins and Brandon McKenney of Patch Farm in Denmark. Five years ago they started down their path to farm ownership with a lease-to-own agreement on their “dream farm.” They recently realized their dream and are now farm owners.
“Without the guidance of Land For Good, I’m not sure we could have had the confidence to continually approach our landlord until we found a way to buy the land,” said Googins. She recalls working a farmers market on a late summer morning when she received a text message about a farm listing from McKenney.
The farm property was in the town of Denmark, less than a half-hour from their family. The farm included 50 acres of forested land, 20 acres of pasture, and a well kept 1820s farmhouse with sturdy, attached barn. Once a certified organic sheep farm, the farm featured diverse terrain, perfect for both animals and vegetables.
The couple knew that finding a suitable farm property was just the beginning. Gaining secure tenure to make it their own would take patience, compromise and support. They contacted LFG for guidance about how they could own their own land. Working with Jo Barrett, LFG’s Maine field agent, the farming couple discussed different paths to ownership and found a solution with a lease-to-own model.
Barrett helped them craft unique lease provisions, like “statements ensuring rent payments would go towards the principal, an option to buy and a right of first refusal clause”—and coached them through negotiations.”
Googins said, “Land For Good helped us understand what things to include in our lease, as well as how to work with and find compromise with our soon-to-be-landlord.”
Four years later, high tunnels dot the landscape, bountiful vegetables and fruits burst forth, and animals rotationally graze to restore the soil’s fertility. They just finalized a farm purchase loan from the USDA Farm Service Agency, securing the farm long-term for their family and community.
Farmers, both those transitioning out of farming and those starting or expanding farm enterprises, can make connections at the conference. Last year, the conference brought together more than 150 established and beginning farmers, landowners, and agricultural service providers.
The conference is geared toward farm seekers, retiring farmers and landowners to help them better understand the options, resources and steps to accessing or transferring farms or farmland. Service providers and other advocates, including land trusts, conservation commissions, town planners and lenders with an interest in fostering affordable farmland access can also benefit from strategies and innovative practices, as well as panel discussions.
Sponsors include American Farmland Trust, and The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry and the Maine Harvest Credit Project.
Cost of attendance is $20 per person and includes a lunch sourced from local farmers and producers. For more information or to register, visit mainefarmlandtrust.org/access-2018.