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.
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.”
Farmland Protection Retreat
Focuses on New England Opportunities & Challenges
retreat organized by American Farmland Trust brought together more than 50 of
the region’s leading farmland protection practitioners, including state agency
staff, USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) State Conservationists and
program managers, and land trust representatives, to brainstorm farmland protection
challenges and strategies and discuss the federal Farm and Ranch Lands
Protection Program (FRPP). Joining the group were New Hampshire Commissioner of
Agriculture Lorraine Merrill, Connecticut Commissioner of Agriculture Steve
Reviczky, and three guests from the national USDA-NRCS office, including
Richard Sims, NRCS Regional Conservationist for the Northeast, and Jeremy
Stone, the national FRPP program manager. Cris Coffin, American Farmland Trust
New England Director, notes that AFT is working to make this retreat an annual
event. “This kind of regional shoptalk is invaluable both in helping to
strengthen relationships and in advancing farmland protection innovations around
the region,” remarks Coffin.
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 new 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