Every year, America loses 1.2 million acres of farmland - an area twice the size of Rhode Island - much of it our best and most productive farmland near where most Americans live. In Connecticut and across the nation, American Farmland Trust is a vital link between farmers, conservationists and policymakers, working to protect the best farmland, direct growth away from agricultural resources, provide healthy local food to all citizens, and help communities sustain local farms and farming.
AFT and its partners, Connecticut Land Conservation Council and Connecticut Farmland Trust, recently completed its Model Agricultural Easement project – funded through an Agricultural Viability grant provided by the Connecticut Department of Agriculture. The goal of the project was to improve understanding among attorneys and conservation entities about the challenges and opportunities of farming protected land and the important ways conservation easements differ from agricultural easements. The tools and resources developed through this project will provide important guidance to a variety of conservation entities throughout the state when drafting agricultural easements.
The materials from the project can be downloaded below:
Working Lands Alliance Sponsors Essay Contest for Agriscience Students and 4-H Members
Working Lands Alliance is sponsoring an essay contest for high school-level agriscience students, FFA members, and 4-H members. The contest asks these students to consider the role that both farmland protection and agrisicence schools/4-H programs might play in meeting the goal of increasing the consumption of Connecticut-grown food and farm products from the current levels of 2% to 10%.
The top three winners will receive cash prizes, and those three and 4 honorable mentions will enjoy a Connecticut-grown dinner with Governor Malloy and Commissioner of Agriculture Reviczky at the Winvian estate in the Litchfield Hills.
Essay Contest Guidelines [PDF]
This past fall, Working Lands Alliance, American Farmland Trust, and numerous partners hosted a Farmland Access and Affordability Forum, generously sponsored by Farm Credit East and an anonymous donor. The forum provided an opportunity to delve into farmland access and affordability issues in Connecticut, as well as learn about successfully employed approaches in the region.
Working Lands Alliance recently released the summary from the Forum, which includes a list of 'Priorities for Action in 2014'. These priorities were developed based on input received at the Forum, as well as follow up meetings the host organizations have had as part of a Farmland Access Working Group. “WLA and our partners look forward to working closely with the Connecticut Department of Agriculture and other key organizations and agencies as we focus on these action items over the coming year”, said Lisa Bassani Working Lands Alliance project director.
Download the Farmland Access and Affordability Forum summary.
Connecticut Governor Malloy Visits Working Lands
Working Lands Alliance (WLA) kicked
off the 2014 legislative session with a visit from Connecticut Governor Dannel
Malloy to our monthly Steering Committee meeting. Members of the committee engaged
with the governor on the 2014 Policy Priorities, including further protections
of state-owned farmland, the pace of farmland preservation in Connecticut and
farmland access issues facing Connecticut’s new and beginning farmers. WLA
praised the governor for his support of agriculture and farmland preservation
efforts over his first term. “The governor truly understands the importance of agriculture
in our state and the need for sustained statewide investments in farmland
preservation and our farm economy,” said Lisa Bassani, WLA project director. The Malloy administration has
protected nearly 900 acres of state-owned farmland, made a $10 million annual
commitment to fund Connecticut’s Farmland Preservation Program and provided $5
million in disaster assistance to farmers who suffered weather-related losses
Farming Protected Land Workshops Completed in Connecticut
Land trust boards, municipal commissions and agency staff from all over Connecticut
attended the three “Farming Protected Land” workshops held October 10 and 17,
and November 2. Participants received an update on the changing face of
agriculture, participated in dialogue about efforts to develop model
agricultural easement language, explored issues around farmland access and
reviewed easement language from a local farmland protection project. After a lunch that featured locally grown foods,
they toured the farm and discussed the
challenges and opportunities of farming protected land. The farms selected for each workshop varied
and included a dairy farm, beef producer, and a diversified fruit and vegetable
workshops were offered as part of American Farmland Trust’s Model Agricultural
Easement Project. The project, in
partnership with the Connecticut Land Conservation
and the Connecticut Farmland Trust (CFT) was funded through a CT
Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Viability Grant. A fourth workshop is planned for January 2014
to provide trainning for easement drafters on the completed model easement language.
Trust’s Forums Examine Ways to Address Land Access and Affordability
New England farmland in farming and ensuring its availability for the next
generation of farmers is the focus of two upcoming American Farmland Trust forums.
Later this month, American Farmland Trust's Working Lands Alliance and other Connecticut
partners will hold a day-long conversation to address one of the biggest
barriers for new and established farmers—access to affordable farmland. In
November, American Farmland Trust will convene its 80 Farmland Advisors for a two-day immersion in
the topic, exploring how advisors can work with farmers and farmland owners on
farmland transfer and tenure options. “If we want land to stay in farming,”
notes American Farmland Trust’s New England Director Cris Coffin, “we need
multiple strategies and a better understanding of what will motivate farmland
owners to sell or lease land to a next generation farmer. By sharing
information about what works and what more is needed, we can build New England’s
capacity to keep farmland in farming from one generation to the next.”
England Webinar and Listening Sessions on Food Safety Modernization Act
federal Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) will significantly impact how food
in New England and around the country is grown, handled and processed. Farmers,
consumers and organizations that support farms and farmland conservation all
have a stake in how FSMA is implemented. You can help make it a workable law
that improves food safety and supports the type and scale of agriculture that
is prevalent in New England. As part of American Farmland Trust’s Regional
Policy Project, we recently collaborated with partners to host a
webinar about the FSMA, in advance of three listening
sessions that will
take place in New England on August 19, 20 and 22. “Thanks to our
region’s excellent Congressional delegation, we have a chance at these
listening sessions to weigh in with our thoughts and concerns,” said
American Farmland Trust's New England Director, Cris Coffin. “Let’s make
the most of this opportunity.”
New England Project Highlights Programs and Policies to Promote Farmland Access
affordable land to lease or to buy is one of the major challenges facing the
next generation of farmers in New England. Two new reports produced by the Land
Access Project—a regional project in which American Farmland Trust
participated—offer recommendations on ways that states, the U.S. Department of
Agriculture, farm and conservation organizations, land trusts, and private
investors can help to improve access to land for new and beginning farmers. The Farmland
Access and Tenure Innovations report focuses on strategies to encourage
public and private landowners to sell or lease their land to beginning
farmers. The second report, Does
the Option at Agricultural Value Protect Farmland for Beginning Farmers,
analyzes a legal requirement—used by both the Massachusetts and Vermont
farmland protection programs, as well as some land trusts—that farmland under
conservation easement be sold at its agricultural value rather than market
value. This would ensure the affordability of protected land for farmers,
particularly beginning farmers.
Successful Legislative Session Wraps up in Connecticut
5, Connecticut ended its 2013 legislative session with some big wins for
farmland preservation. The bill to preserve 825 acres of state-owned farmland
at the Southbury Training School passed unanimously in both the House
and Senate and will
be signed by Governor Dannel Malloy. This bill was a top priority of the
Working Lands Alliance (WLA), a project of American Farmland Trust. WLA also successfully defended the Community Investment Act (CIA) from a proposed raid of $4 million in funds. Even
better, the final budget actually added a significant new source of revenue to
CIA, increasing the total funds available to support farmland protection
efforts. Lastly, Connecticut’s Farmland Preservation Program, thanks to WLA's strong advocacy work, will
receive another $20 million in total bond funds over the next two fiscal years. All in all, the 2013 session was a
Regional Convening Considers New England's Farmland Future
month, in partnership with Land For Good and in collaboration with the six New
England state Departments of Agriculture and state USDA-NRCS offices, American
Farmland Trust convened 85 of the region’s farm and conservation leaders in
Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to discuss New England’s farmland future. Topics
ranged from strengthening farmland protection tools, to expanding farmland
access for new and established farmers, to improving farmland resiliency in the
face of climate change. Participants explored opportunities for collective
action and utilized a series of maps, produced in collaboration with the
Massachusetts USDA-NRCS, to explore trends in farmland protection, development
and conservation. “The convening helped identify some important opportunities
and challenges around the region,” said Cris Coffin, American Farmland Trust’s
New England Director. “We hope these materials
and findings will help inform farmland-related work around the region and
spur new projects and collective action.”
Farmland Advisors Spring into Action in the Northeast
Farmland Trust and Land for Good’s Farmland
Advisors program is educating agriculture service providers to help the next generation
of farmers access land and help farm families facilitate the transfer to
the next generation. Farmland Advisors started in February with a webinar for
the program’s 80
participants, from New York and New England. The program is funded by a grant from the Northeast SARE Professional Development Program
and support from a Farm Credit
Northeast AgEnhancment grant. Participants represent land trusts,
beginning farmer organizations, extension offices, lending institutions and
local and state agencies.
Updated Guide Helps Connecticut Communities Plan for Agriculture
Across Connecticut, local officials are increasingly cognizant of the economic, social, and environmental contributions that farms, farmers and farmland provide to their communities. To help municipal governments find ways to support and grow agriculture at the local level, American Farmland Trust (AFT) and the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities (CCM) have updated the very successful joint publication: Planning for Agriculture: A Guide For Connecticut Municipalities. “Virtually every local municipal board makes decisions that impact local farms,” says Cris Coffin, AFT’s New England Director. “This publication will help guide local officials in making decisions that not only sustain local farms, but help them grow and create new enterprises and steward their farmland for future generations.”
agriculture continues to grow and diversify in Connecticut, local officials are
seeking information on how to address livestock in their communities. American
Farmland Trust recently teamed up with Eastern
Connecticut Resource Conservation and Development Area, Inc. and the
University of Connecticut Cooperative Extension System to produce a new guide
to help municipalities. The guide, Guidance
and Recommendations For Connecticut Municipal Zoning Regulations and Ordinances
For Livestock, funded by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service in
Connecticut, aims to educate municipal officials about zoning options for
livestock and provides sources of expertise and assistance. The document can be viewed or downloaded at: www.farmland.org/newengland/.
Farmland ConneCTions: A Guide for Land Leasing
Access to land can be a major obstacle to young and veteran farmers alike. Leasing farmland from towns, institutions and land trusts provides an opportunity for beginning and expanding farmers to embark on new farm ventures or grow their farm businesses. Whether five acres or 100 acres, leased land can help keep farms thriving while creating jobs and providing local food. To help landowners and land seekers think through farm leasing and develop successful lease arrangements, we developed a new guide along with the University of Connecticut called Farmland ConneCTions: Leasing Farmland in Connecticut [PDF]. Two upcoming webinars on the guide will cover tenure options, practical and legal considerations in drafting a lease, community farms and risk management options.
Learn more about the guide!
More About Our Work in Connecticut
A pivotal part of our advocacy work in Connecticut is performed by the Working Lands Alliance (WLA). Established in 2000, WLA is a statewide coalition of farmers, conservationists, anti-hunger groups and municipal leaders working together to increase the state’s commitment to farmland preservation. WLA’s efforts focus on strengthening the state’s commitment to Connecticut’s Farmland Preservation Program and other new agriculture viability programs.
Another year has come to pass and with it a list of successes—and challenges—impacting farms and food across New England. 2011 was marked by unusual weather, underscoring the need for effective policies and programs to keep farms thriving despite the inherent risks and to help support strong local food systems.
This year, we worked with a wide variety of partners throughout New England to promote the critical importance of farms and farmland to New England’s economy, environment, public health, community character and livability. Here are a few highlights from our work across the region. Read more about our accomplishments from the past year in New England and see a snapshot of what lies ahead.
The last of the acclaimed Dinners at the Farm were held over three beautiful nights at Old Maids Farm in South Glastonbury, CT. Working Lands Alliance—a project of American Farmland Trust—was one of only four organizations selected as a beneficiary. At the same time, Good Tastes Kitchen of Newburyport hosted a farm-to-table event at Cider Hill Farm, in Amesbury, MA. Chefs at both events delighted guests with a feast of locally grown products sourced from the host farms and other local producers. The hugely popular dinners are intended to generate awareness of the vitality of the local farming community and the delicious food it provides.
American Farmland Trust and Connecticut Conference of Municipalities are currently providing technical assistance to help communities plan for agriculture. Six municipalities—Coventry, Durham, Eastford, North Stonington, Preston and Woodbridge—were selected to receive technical assistance to implement one of the strategies discussed in the Planning for Agriculture: A Guide for Connecticut Municipalities. The towns are focusing on strategies such as: initiating an Agricultural Commission; reviewing farm tax reduction options; encouraging buy local opportunities; including agriculture in town conservation and development plans; and developing right-to-farm ordinances.
Finally, a website to help you find locally grown food and farm products in Connecticut. Visit BuyCTGrown.com to search for local products, sign up for in-season alerts for you favorite fruits and vegetables, reminders about upcoming food and farm events, or delectable seasonal recipes from Connecticut chefs and more. The 2009 membership enrollment packet is now available for farms and other businesses.
New England Field Office
Working Lands Alliance Project Director &
New England Project Manager