After working on a few different farms over the seasons, Anthony and I met as apprentices at Glynwood in Cold Spring, NY in 2018 and chose to start our lives farming together. We bought/inherited Second Wind CSA in 2019 and spent 2 beautiful – albeit tough, seasons growing food for a wonderful community that had been grown and nourished by our predecessors on land that had been stewarded with equal love and care. In June of 2020 we were notified that our lease for the next season would not be renewed. It was incredibly heartbreaking and stressful for us to comprehend the impact of losing the lease on this land before having a strategy in place for our next journey – especially in the middle of a production season with little time and energy to start planning. We used the time we did have to think through our options and opportunities and ultimately came to this. Our end goal is to have secure land (5-10 acres) where we can live and farm, growing food for our immediate community for as long as we desire. The simplest route here would be to buy our own property- the barrier to that is our lack of capital. Without any immediate solution to this barrier we are exploring resources that could help us purchase land along with alternative options, all having their list of pros and cons. I wanted to give you all a glimpse of what this journey has looked like and the struggle many young farmers like us are facing.
- Parcels, Prices, and Competition : As many know, land in our region is hard to come by and incredibly expensive. There are developers and investors grabbing up property left and right, putting in cash offers well above the market ask, making buying land even more challenging for farmers of already scarce means. Us being farmers who only need 5 acres to properly farm, it’s heartbreaking to see large parcels of land for sale at a rate we could never afford. I constantly find myself wondering if someone with 100 acres of hay fields might sell me a fraction of it so we can grow some veggies for their family and our community! There are certainly resources out there to help farmers buy land – we’re in the early days of exploring those and are hopeful we might find a path forward soon.
- To Lease or Not To Lease: As made obvious above, there are many people buying land in our region. Many of these folks want to have a farm on that property for a variety of reasons and are hopeful to lease their property to a farmer. Leasing conversations are tough. To communicate the concessions that go into a decision to put your life, labor and passion into a piece of land that will never be yours is incredibly challenging. Not only are there these intangibles but financially, the most successful farms reinvest in themselves each year. Imagine renting a fixer-upper from someone, living in and improving it over 5 years on your own dollar and then being asked to vacate it. Specifically, in a no-till system like ours, the most valuable asset over time becomes the soil itself which permanently lives with the land. The only things that can help make up for these challenges are typically, capital support from the landowner, secure housing on-site, and complete autonomy on the land – understandably tough asks that most landowners have trouble providing. Land ownership is also the key to many farmer’s retirement, so taking this out of the equation begs the farmer to question their end of career plan. This conversation truly contains multitudes and deserves more space- but I wanted to provide a snap-shot of the many considerations farmers pan through when opportunities arise. The take away here is to illustrate that while the offer of land is often rooted in the best of intentions, farmers, like anyone else, are seeking life long security that often isn’t available in these scenarios – it takes a special situation for these arrangements to work out for everyone involved.
- Farming to Live to Live to Farm: Early on, we never spent much time thinking about ourselves as someone else’s farmer. The obvious route always felt like building our own, but developing farms for profit or as a “loss-leader” is a new and popular phenomenon. As more folks see the value and beauty in this work, we are seeing new farms pop-up in unexpected places. Now, having the experience that we do, we count ourselves among the professionals in this field that can help these farms succeed. If we find the right match on a farm that shares our values and provides a fair salary for that knowledge, we could be happy in our work and also be supporting our own path to land ownership. We have interviewed with a few farms, met a few owners and had those conversations but haven’t found the right fit yet. We are certainly open to these opportunities and would be pumped to support a farm that values our knowledge and experience.
So that’s it! A little look at our story and the way farmers seeking land look at the opportunities that surround them. As always, there are two sides to all scenarios and farm owners, landowners, and developers/investors all have valuable perspectives to share. I’m hopeful that on this journey we will find a space in this world where we can all be winners, all feel secure, and all be nourished. If you have leads on land opportunities, think we might be a fit for your farm or would like to continue this conversation please do reach out (firstname.lastname@example.org) – sharing knowledge and sharing stories is how this world becomes more connected and empathetic.
Lots of love
Leslie and Anthony