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How do I find a farm or farmland?

Acquiring your farm is one of the most critical farming steps you will ever take. And purchasing farmland is not necessarily the best or only option. Occasionally, a new farmer will buy a farm and then ask, "What can I produce here?" It's far better to select your farm property based on prior decisions and planning -- answering questions first about what you want to produce (and "what the market wants"), and how you prefer to market your products. A diversified vegetable enterprise needs a very different natural resource base and farm infrastructure than a dairy or beef cattle operation.

Here are some things to think about:

There are different ways to acquire a farm or farmland.

  • For many starting farmers, purchasing land is not desirable or possible. You don't have to own land to be a successful farmer.
  • Often, rental, long-term lease, lease-to-own, "work-in" or other "tenure" arrangements make business sense. Sometimes, gaining experience as a farm manager or herdsman, for example, is a good first step before committing to a piece of farmland.
  • Working through a farm transfer from a retiring farm family -- your own family, or an unrelated party-can be a complex transaction, often requiring technical assistance.
    Your tenure relationship to the farm-that is, how you hold the land-may change over the course of your farming career.
  • Be clear about what you are looking for, and gather adequate information about any prospective farm property: the natural resources, buildings and other infrastructure, access, history, community, zoning regulations, projected growth of the area, etc. You can search for farm property in traditional ways, such as through realtors. Often, farming newsletters and other publications, farm supplier bulletin boards, etc. have classified sections. In the Northeast, several states have "farm linking" programs that assist farmers in locating land and securing a tenure arrangement (see below).
Here is a sample of resources:

National Farm Transition Network: This site lists and links you to all the "farm linking" programs in the US. In the Northeast, farm link programs serve CT, ME, MA, VT, NH, RI, NY, NJ, and PA. They offer a wide variety of programs, services, publications and other products on accessing farmland and related new farmer topics.

Canadian Farm Business Management Council hosts a website of land tenure resources for entering and exiting farmers.

Acquiring & Managing Farm Resources, published by Midwest Plan Service/NRAES.

For information on land trusts and conservation easements try the American Farmland Trust or the Land Trust Alliance.

For help in evaluating land, try the National Soil Survey Center, USDA NRCS, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Wetlands Maps, or , a world-wide source of satellite imagery and aerial photography.

Look at general real estate resources on buying property, getting mortgages, learning land history, including and the Real Estate Library.

There are many sites for buying land online, including LandMarketer, Agriscape, the American Land Network, Land and Farm, and the Farm Market.

NRAES publications available online include: Fixed and Flexible Cash Rental Arrangements for Your Farm; Long Term Installment Land Contracts; Pasture Rental Arrangements for Your Farm; and Rental Agreements for Farm Buildings and Livestock Facilities.


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