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Snapshot of Vermont Agriculture

Farming on the Edge: Vermont Farmland in the Path of Development

 

The Apple as Planet Earth Presentation
The Apple As Planet Earth

Do you know how much of the earth is suitable for farming? Watch the video and learn why protecting our farmland is so important.

 
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America has been losing more than an acre of farmland per minute - much of it our best and most productive farmland near where most Americans live. In Vermont 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.

 

Vermont Governor Shumlin Proposes $1.5 Million for Working Lands Enterprises

Vermont farmSeeking to continue the success of the state’s Working Lands Enterprise Fund, the Shumlin administration has proposed $1.5 million for the fund in its FY2015 budget. The Vermont Agency on Agriculture recently highlighted the results from the fund’s first grant round, noting that the $1 million investment has helped create an estimated 45 new jobs. The fund is administered by the Vermont Working Lands Enterprise Board (WLEB), whose mission is to grow the economies, cultures, and communities of Vermont's working landscape by making essential, catalytic investments in critical leverage points of the Vermont farm and forest economy. Notes Cris Coffin, American Farmland Trust New England director, “By focusing on the businesses that work the land, the Working Lands Enterprise Initiative is an important complement to Vermont’s longstanding investments in farm and forest land protection.”

American Farmland Trust’s Forums Examine Ways to Address Land Access and Affordability

Farmer and son in free stall barnKeeping 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.”

New England Webinar and Listening Sessions on Food Safety Modernization Act

Farmers market spreadThe new 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

Young farmer in fieldFinding 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.  

 

Regional Convening Considers New England’s Farmland Future  

Rows of crops on small New England farmLast 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-Advisors.jpgAmerican 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.

 

Farmland Advisors Training Program Now Accepting Applications in Northeast

Allen Family on farm in Easton, New YorkThe transfer of farms to a new generation is one of the biggest challenges facing agriculture in New York and New England.  Farmland Advisors is a training program to help agriculture and conservation professionals become an effective resource in helping farmers and farmland owners as they seek access to land and navigate the complexity of farm transfers. “Participants will learn about everything from farm succession planning to farm linking, lease options and land conservation as a farm transfer strategy,” said Diane Held, Senior New York Field Manager for American Farmland Trust. “Land access and availability are increasingly impacting farms and food systems in the region,” added New England Director Cris Coffin, “Working with professionals across the Northeast will help to meet these challenges at the state level.”  Applications are now being accepted. The deadline to apply is October 31.

Regional Project Seeks to Foster Supportive Public Policy Environment

farmer-and-carrott-picking.pngA vibrant and viable food system in New England requires a supportive public policy environment. For this reason, American Farmland Trust is teaming up with the Conservation Law Foundation and the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group to identify the policy levers that will support improved farm profitability, expanded food production and the agricultural infrastructure needed to improve regional food resiliency. Drawing upon expertise and experience of leaders and practitioners across New England, this two-year project will focus on federal, state and regional policy arenas, analyzing policy barriers and gaps in five key areas and recommending where change is most needed, at what level and scale, and what kinds of advocacy might be most effective.

New Project Aims to Keep New England's Farmland in Farming

New England farmBuilding on work done through the New England Commission on Land Conservation and its Farm and Food Security Initiative, American Farmland Trust is bringing together farmland experts from around New England to explore ways in which the region might work collaboratively to keep farmland in farming. The six New England state “Chief Agricultural Officers” and the six state USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Offices are key partners in this effort, as is Land For Good. The project will include a “shop talk” for farmland protection practitioners and a convening for farm and conservation stakeholders, federal and state agencies, and public and private funders. Cris Coffin, New England Director at American Farmland Trust, believes that regional collaboration is critical to retaining and growing the region’s farmland base. “Every state in the region is in some stage of farm and food system planning and, not surprisingly, land access and availability are emerging as key and common needs,” says Coffin. “We will be better able to tackle these challenges at the state level if we learn and work together as a region.”

Hannaford Supermarkets Joins New England’s “Keep Local Farms” Dairy Initiative

Keep Local Farms CommissionersA Northeast grocery chain has become the first retailer to join forces with the New England Dairy Promotion Board and New England Family Dairy Farms Cooperative to bring the concept of “fair trade” milk to consumers. Hannaford's 71 stores will promote the benefits of local dairy farms—including stewardship of the region’s farmland—and offer shoppers an opportunity to directly support dairy farmers through the “Keep Local Farms” dairy campaign. Cris Coffin, American Farmland Trust’s New England Director, is excited by the Hannaford announcement: “Educating shoppers about the value of our region’s dairy farmers will hopefully encourage them to donate to the campaign and help farmers receive a better price for their milk.”

FACT: New England has approximately 1,880 dairy farms; dairy farmers are currently receiving about .97 cents per gallon of milk while it costs about $1.80 a gallon to produce.

FederAl Farm Policy and the farm bill

What’s in the farm bill and why is it important? Find out what’s next for the farm bill and how we can make sure the legislation's promises are turned into programs on the ground.

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New England Field Office

Cris Coffin, New England States Director
1 Short Street, Suite 2
Northampton, MA 01060-3952
(p)413-586-9330 ext. 29
(f)413-586-9332
ccoffin@farmland.org

 
American Farmland Trust