New Generations Legacy program

This week, we continue to highlight the work of our partner the Center for Rural Affairs.  The Center is launching a new program to help more beginning farmers and ranchers land access.

The New Generations Legacy program will receive agricultural land from interested donors.  The land will then be rented to qualified beginning farmers and/or ranchers.  As the beginner becomes established, s/he will have the option to purchase the land.

Beginners will be qualified based upon financial need, reasonable acreage limitations, and an agreement to practice sustainable agricultural practices.

The New Generations Legacy program is a nationwide program.  As such, the Center will attempt to assist qualified beginners who live near donated land.

For more information, contact Hank Rohling at the Center for Rural Affairs.  The New Generations Legacy program is an exciting step for both landowners interested in creating a legacy in their communities and beginners to expand and build upon that legacy and create a legacy of their own.

Accessing Business Credit as a Beginning Farmer

One common theme among all farmers and ranchers?  Access to credit.  Whether you are a beginning farmer looking to purchase your first plot of land to an established farmer interested in exploring new export markets, access to credit is a recurring theme.

The USDA recently hosted a Google+ hangout to discuss access to credit, which may be especially interesting for beginning farmers.  The Google+ Hangout featured USDA Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden, along with FSA Farm Loan Chief Chris Beyerhelm and Farm Credit Council Vice President for Young, Beginning, Small Farmer Programs and Outreach Gary Matteson.  The topic of conversation?  What is a lender looking for when a farmer walks in the door requesting credit.

The video in the link has information not only from the USDA and Farm Credit, but also everyday farmers and ranchers sharing their experiences.  If you have a few moments, the video is well worth your time to gain insight from lenders and gain ideas from other farmers and ranchers.  Check it out!

Farm Loan Chief Chris Beyerhelm
Farm Loan Chief Chris Beyerhelm
Farm Loan Chief Chris Beyerhelm

Farm Loan Chief Chris Beyerhelm
Farm Service Agency Farm Loan Chief Chris Beyerhelm and Farm Credit Council Vice President for Young, Beginning, Small Farmer Programs and Outreach Gary Matteson – See more at:

Farm Service Agency Farm Loan Chief Chris Beyerhelm and Farm Credit Council Vice President for Young, Beginning, Small Farmer Programs and Outreach Gary Matteson – See more at:

Land access for small farmers

This interview with Temple Grandin on her thoughts on the future of small farms is very intriguing.  Land access is certainly a pressing concern for small farmers, as well as beginning farmers.  It got me thinking about various methods of obtaining land access for small farmers.  What are some ideas for obtaining land access, especially if you need or want access to a population center:

  • Ownership of land

This is the obvious, albeit for many people the most difficult solution to obtaining land access.  But not all is lost.  It takes persistence, networking, and workable finances, but it is possible to purchase land.  There are many programs available from both the Farm Service Agency and individual states (for example, aggie bonds) to assist with land purchases.  Additionally, small farmers have a built-in advantage: they don’t need or require enormous tracts of land.  So, keep an eye out for smaller tracts of land that may be a bit off the beaten path.  Talk to anyone who will listen (or at least won’t walk away!) that you are looking for land to purchase.  Look for land that, while it may not be perfect, will nonetheless fit your needs.

  • Lease of land

As I’ve written here before, I think leases are an option if properly considered.  A lease, especially if you are a new small farmer, provides an opportunity to test your business plan, your marketing and product, and whether this is a career you can and want to pursue.  Leases also provide an opportunity to develop a relationship with a landowner who may be willing to sell land and/or provide references to others in the community about your operation and need for land.  Also, keep in mind that the State of Nebraska has a program in place when leases are signed: the Nebraska Beginning Farmer Tax Credit.  Keep in mind the tax credit requires a lease of ten or more acres.

  • Urban lots

Urban lots may be exactly what your small farm needs.  You would be in the population center, would likely have direct contact with consumers, and may have more housing options available.  But there are issues unique to urban areas.  First, you need to know the zoning regulations and the zoning of the particular lot you may use for your operation.  You may also have to consider whether homeowner covenants are in place.  Some covenants prevent gardens, commercial activities, and/or require a house to be built on the lot within a certain period of time.  An urban lot is also best for vegetable, fruit, or similar operation; animals will very likely not work due to municipal ordinances barring farm animals in city limits.

In the end, access to land is a difficult but not necessarily insurmountable problem, especially for small farmers.  So don’t give up on making your business plans, networking with others, participating an apprenticeships and internships, and generally following your dream.  And if following your dream requires a bit of help, you are always welcome to contact us.

Land access for beginning farmers

By far, the topic of conversation among beginning farmers is access to land.  I’ve talked to many beginning farmers about this very topic.  How, I am asked, can I obtain access to land?

Before answering that question, we should start with what we know.  According to the Kansas City Federal Reserve, Nebraska agricultural land prices for irrigated land increased 32% and non-irrigated land increased 26.8% from the previous year.  Preliminary data on Nebraska cash rent values as of February 1, 2013 tell the same tale — cash rents are up statewide, depending upon the type of land,  from 19 to 30 percent.  (Keep in mind, however, that the preliminary data is broken down by region so the numbers vary more at that analysis level.)

With the above reality, how to obtain access to land?  I can’t promise the magic bullet, but I do have some ideas:

  • Take a long, hard look at your (proposed) operation and determine how much land you need, not how much land you want.  You may be able to lease smaller parcels and obtain the land your operation needs.  This may also include considerations of geography, i.e. whether you should move if you have the opportunity to secure land.  It will also include considerations of the type of land you need and housing possibilities.
  • Search for internships and other job opportunities to gain experience and network with other producers.  Internships and other opportunities are listed and/or promoted in various locations, including Beginning Farmers.
  • Consider leases, rather than ownership, especially when building your operation.  If you know an operator, present the operator with a business proposal to lease the property.  The proposal can include utilization of programs such as Nebraska’s Beginning Farmer Tax Credit.  More information about the Beginning Farmer Tax Credit is here.
  • There are several land-matching programs out there.  The Center for Rural Affair’s LandLink program is a nation-wide program where land owners with beginning farmers.  The Center also has a comprehensive list of other land-matching programs by state and region.
  • There are websites available which list agricultural land for sale.  A Google search will find numerous resources.
  • Keep in mind various financing strategies, both for your operation and real estate.  The Farm Service Agency has a variety of financing strategies for operating loans to real estate loans.

You don’t have to in your twenties to consider these strategies.  In fact, according to the latest research, many beginning farmers (those with ten years or less experience) are between the ages of 35 and 64.  There is no reason you cannot take some time to consider what you want to farm, how you want to farm, where you want to live, and craft a long-term strategy.

There are a lot of details in this post and Legal Aid of Nebraska is happy to help you with any questions about your particular operation.  Feel free to contact us!