Land owners invited to meetings on leasing
HILLSBOROUGH — Despite New Jersey’s dense population and heavy development pressure, communities have rallied around farmland preservation — with more than 25 percent of the state’s 733,450 farmland acres preserved.
Many farmland owners, though, are not actively farming but actively looking for farmers. While it sounds like a simple and advantageous relationship, there are potential pitfalls for landowners and farmers alike when either lacks leasing or farming experience.
“Finding available land, with the right features and conditions for your operation, is difficult to begin with — add a leasing arrangement and things can get hairy,” said Eve Minson, Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Jersey’s Beginning Farmer Program Manager. “Farmers are looking for a guarantee — a reason to invest into land that is not their own and will never be theirs — while landowners are looking for a tenant that will fulfill their own, separate set of expectations.”
NOFA-NJ and the State Agriculture Development Committee, the administrators of New Jersey’s Farmland Preservation Program, are teaming up to address this issue.
The SADC operates the Farm Link Program, which has an online listing that helps to connect farm owners with farmers seeking access to farmland and farming opportunities. David Kimmel, Agricultural Resource Specialist with the SADC, recognizes that the program’s linking service isn’t enough.
“Leasing arrangements can be tricky, especially for landowners who may not have prior experience with farming and all of the activity that surrounds a farming business. We are developing a model lease guidebook and arranging informational meetings to introduce landowners to leasing resources and opportunities, plus give them a chance to speak with farmers who are involved in successful leasing arrangements,” Kimmel explained.
The SADC and NOFA-NJ are sponsoring three regional meetings for landowners, from 7 to 8:30 p.m., on June 4 (Genesis Farm-Blairstown, NJ), June 6 (Rutgers Cooperative Extension in Salem County-Woodstown) and June 14 (Rutgers Cooperative Extension in Mercer County-Lawrenceville) to discuss these topics.
Landowners will learn about the access-to-land issues faced by farmers and hear from farmers who have been in leasing arrangements.
There will also be an opportunity for landowners to provide feedback to help shape the SADC’s development of new leasing resources.
A fourth meeting for nonprofit, land-trust and public-entity landowners is scheduled for Thursday, June 12, from 2-4 p.m., at D&R Greenway in Princeton.
These programs are sponsored in part by the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, USDA, Grant #2011-49400-30739. Genesis Farm, Rutgers Cooperative Extension, and D&R Greenway are also helping sponsor the meetings.
Additional details and registration information is available at http://nj.gov/agriculture/sadc/ and http://www.nofanj.org/.