Gathering Around the Table to Help a New Generation of Farmers

Erica Goodman

One of my favorite times to visit my grandmother was during the lunch hour. The matriarch of my family’s small dairy farm, her table overflowed with homecooked meals and an array of unannounced guests – the veterinarian, extension agent, milk truck driver, or others who timed their noontime visits as closely as I did.

It was there I learned that farming takes more than a family; it takes a web of committed experts from the community beyond. Though this network of professionals sometimes made it hard to find room at Grandma Shirley’s table, they were integral to the daily operation of our farm, from helping doctor a sick animal to providing the loans necessary to build a new barn or expand the family business.

That web is especially important at times of transition, when new farmers are for the first time looking for land to farm or when the senior generation of a farm family realizes they must look beyond their own bloodline to keep the land in farming.  

Last month, American Farmland Trust, in partnership with the State of New York, agricultural organizations, land trusts, and others, launched “Farmland for a New Generation New York,” a program that helps farmers seeking land and landowners who want to keep their land in farming. “Farmland for a New Generation New York” builds upon the leadership of organizations and agencies across the state who have identified the need and championed collaborative opportunities to bring the next generation of farmers onto the land.

The program offers a Resource Center with expert advisors and a website (nyfarmlandfinder.org) featuring training materials and listings of farmers in search of land as well as land available for farming. In less than a month since the website’s launch, more than 200 farmers and over 115 landowners have created listings. “Farmland for a New Generation New York” also supports a network of Regional Navigators, or partner organizations with dedicated staff and regional expertise, that will provide training and on-the-ground customized support for farmers and landowners in regions across New York. 

“Farmland for a New Generation New York” was modeled after the successful Hudson Valley Farmlink Network. Over the past four years, this partnership of organizations – now up to 16 and representing Cornell Cooperative Extension, land trusts, and nonprofits – has successfully helped more than 140 farmers in finding a place to farm in the Hudson Valley through one-on-one assistance and use of the Hudson Valley Farmland Finder website (hudsonvalleyfarmlandfinder.org).

In launching Farmland for a New Generation New York, we hope farmers and landowners will pull up a chair and connect with one another, as well as our partners throughout the state who want to ensure a bright future for farming in New York for many years to come.