July 24, 2019
CONNECTICUT FARMLINK PROGRAM CONNECTS FARMERS WITH FARMLAND
Bureau of Agricultural Development and Resource Conservation
The Connecticut (CT) FarmLink Program was established by the Connecticut Department of Agriculture (DoAg) in 2007.
The goal of the program is to connect farmers seeking land with farmland owners looking to sell or lease acreage. CT FarmLink also provides resource information and some technical assistance about farm leasing, farm transfer, farm succession planning, family farm estate planning, and farm transfer strategies.
In essence, the CT FarmLink program postings serve as a sort of matchmaking website for prospective farm owners and farm seekers. Interested parties register by completing either a Farm Seeker Application or Farm Owner Application. The description of an available farm or an individual’s needs for farmland is posted on the website.
Currently, participating farm owners or seekers email Connecticut Farmland Trust, Conservation Associate, Lily Orr at firstname.lastname@example.org to acquire more information about any of the postings. By the end of August 2019, CT FarmLink will launch a new website that will make it easier for farmers to connect with farmland owners.
“Owners and seekers will soon have their own log-in profiles, be able to upload farmland photos or personal resumes, and can anonymously message interested parties. All land postings, seeker postings, and resources will be filterable, so finding what you are looking for will be much easier,” said Lily.
The website, www.CTfarmlink.org, serves as a clearinghouse where landowners post descriptions and details of their farm for sale or lease, and those seeking land post information on what they desire. The site also provides links to programs, agencies, organizations, and upcoming training, and workshops.
“FarmLink is an online tool to help connect farmland owners with farmland seekers, with a goal of keeping Connecticut farmland in production,” said Lily.
Land access is a significant barrier for farmers in Connecticut. According to the 2017 USDA Census of Agriculture, the average price of farmland in Connecticut is $12,483 per acre—one of the highest in the country. A 2017 survey by the National Young Farmers Coalition found land access to be the number one challenge that young farmers and ranchers face.
Currently, there are about 300 farmland seekers and 78 landowners posted on the CT FarmLink website. The greater number of farmland seekers reflects the land access challenge many Connecticut farmers face.
CT FarmLink offers free site visits to landowners. During a site visit Kip Kolesinskas, consulting soil scientist, and Lily will see what is available on the property and determine what type of agriculture the land is best suited for. Based on the site visit, Kip and Lily will offer suggestions for describing the property on farmlink, features to consider in a lease or sale, and possible improvements that will increase the farm’s potential.
CT FarmLink also offers free site visits to farm seekers. With permission from the landowner, Kip and Lily bring the farm seeker out to the interested property (or properties) to evaluate the land and infrastructure suitability for the seeker’s needs and goals. Kip and Lily will offer suggestions to the farm seeker about what needs to be improved or thought more about before further pursuing the property.
To address the land cost barrier many farmers lease land, and CT FarmLink helps farmers find land available for lease. After a farmer has connected with a landowner, Land for Good, a nonprofit organization, can help to draft a lease agreement that works for both parties.
Land for Good also offers one-on-one consultation for farm seekers, farm families, and non-farming landowners to develop, promote and support diversity and innovation around farmland tenure, as well as assistance on succession, and estate planning.
CT FarmLink helps landowners determine what resources are available to ensure farmland remains in agricultural production, including DoAg’s Farmland Preservation Program and Farmland Restoration Program.
“Through the site visits and conversations with landowners we suggest local, state, and federal programs that are available to them,” said Lily. “Since FarmLink is a partnership between Connecticut Farmland Trust and the Connecticut Department of Agriculture, we have direct means of connecting people to the appropriate programs and helping them through the process of applying or executing.”
Some landowners that have preserved their farmland through DoAg’s Farmland Preservation Program have also used CT Farmlink to find farmers interested in working the permanently protected farmland. CT FarmLink helps land that has been protected remain active farmland.
DoAg’s Farmland Preservation Program preserves working lands by acquiring development rights to agricultural properties, ensuring that the land remains available only for agricultural use.
Several Connecticut farms that have been permanently protected for agriculture use through DoAg’s Farmland Preservation Program have also taken advantage of funding through DoAg’s Farmland Restoration Program (FLRP).
The FLRP provides matching grants of up to $20,000 for restoration activities that increase the state’s farmland resource base for agriculture, with a priority placed on prime and important farmland soils and on human and livestock food production.
Activities eligible for funding under the FLRP include reclamation of grown-over pastures, meadows, and cropland; clearing and removal of trees, stumps, stones, and brush to create or restore agricultural use; and other activities. Both farmland owners and farmers who lease land may be eligible. For more information about the FLRP go to www.CTGrown.gov/grants.
Administrative support for the Connecticut FarmLink Program is funded through the Community Investment Act which provides funding for open space, farmland preservation, historic preservation, and affordable housing. Farmland Owners and farmland seekers interested in participating in the CT FarmLink Program should visit www.CTfarmlink.org, email Lily at email@example.com, or call 860-247-0202 ext. 227 for more information.