Finding Farmland or Gardening Space

Looking for somewhere to farm or garden? The farmland you’ve been looking for could be under your nose or maybe above your head.

| February 2015

What does a sustainable and resilient farm look like? Farms with a Future (Chelsea Green, 2012), by Rebecca Thistlethwaite, introduces readers to some of the country’s most innovative farmers who are embracing the entrepreneurialism of farming. This excerpt, which discuss innovative methods to begin farming, is from Chapter 3, “Finding and Securing  Land.”

Buy this book from the GRIT store: Farms with a Future.

Finding and Securing Farmland

The overall picture of farmland in this nation is pretty bleak: We are losing a million acres a year to development; land prices are going up in nearly every region; ownership is consolidated and more often in the hands of nonfarmers; property taxes and estate taxes can be staggeringly high; and more and more farmers are renting, with no real opportunities in sight for secure land tenure. I have been interested in land tenure issues ever since I read the literature and saw firsthand how lack of land tenure leads to poor resource management decisions. Soil erosion rates are higher on rented ground than on owned land (Fraser, 2004). Likewise, the business viability of being a tenant farmer is often short-lived, with limited options to build equity or retirement security.

On a more positive note, there are more organizations today that help farmers find and secure land and more land trusts conserving farmland. Even land in urban areas is increasingly being converted to gardens and small farms, sometimes on ground that used to be paved over. Incrementally, many of these organizations are seeing their role as facilitating the next generation of farmers and forming a critical link in a sustainable food supply chain, joining a discourse that much of America has entered around local food (Beckett, 2011).

If you are already farming a piece of land that you like, some of this information will be unnecessary, but you should still read the sections on Family, Owning versus Renting, and Tax and Legal Issues.

Finding Land

Although you may drive around and see a considerable amount of land sitting fallow, planted to lawns, or growing low-value crops, it can actually be extremely hard to find suitable farmland to rent or purchase. Here is a laundry list of places to look and people to talk to when searching for land, starting at the microlevel.

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