This toolshed contains articles, fact sheets, tools, links, and other resources related to farmland access and tenure. Topics include farm prospecting, farmland purchase and leasing, land stewardship, and land use regulations.
Searching for Farmland
Where to Look for Farmland
Local real estate agencies, newspaper ads, local bulletins and for-sale-by-owner brochures are points of contact for identifying properties for sale. Internet-based databases are also an effective way to search for land. Agricultural publications, such as The Vermont Agency of Agriculture Food and Market's Agriview, have farmland listings as well. Your neighbors or community members might be willing to sell you some of their farmland is approached with a respectable offer.
There are also opportunities for beginning farmers to purchase farmland at reduced prices. The Vermont Land Trust’s (VLT) Farmland Access Program connects beginning farmers with affordable farmland.
Remember: you can also access farmland without purchasing it. Long term leases can provide secure tenure and other rights similar to ownership with the benefit of not requiring the farming tenant to pay all ownership costs. Scroll down to the "Leasing and Alternative Tenure Arrangements" section for more information.
For more resources on where to look for farmland and learn about specific properties, visit the Vermont New Farmer Resource Hub.
Leasing and Alternative Tenure Arrangements
There are numerous tenure options available to new farmers. Farmers do not necessarily need to own or hold title to farmland into order to farm it.
Leasing land is the most common option for non-ownership tenure, allowing farmers to gain legal access to land for a time period agreeable to both land owner and farmer. Leasing allows beginning farmers without credit histories or financing to get onto the land with very little start-up capital. Lease agreements where the farmer pays cash for rent are common. In these cases, the rent amount can be a tax-deductable business expense for the farmer.
You can find more detailed explanations of short and long term lease arrangements and other tenure options at the Vermont New Farmer Project Resource Hub's Leasing and Alternative Tenure page.
Determining the Right Farm Rental Rate
Here you'll find important things beginning farmers may want to consider when pursuing a lease agreement.
Determining the Right Farm Rental Rate. Published in August 2014, this guide is designed to help farmers and landowners determine a fair cash rental rate for farmland, equipment and infrastructure.
Guide to Financing the Community Supported Farm
The Guide to Financing the Community Supported Farm
A number of Vermont farmers are using creative ways to acquire capital for land acquisition, start-up and operation. The Guide to Financing the Community Supported Farm, published in 2012, details options and considerations for crafting unconventional financial arrangements that have been used in other sectors of the economy, but might be new to the agricultural sector.
The guide discusses legal, accounting, environmental and social considerations relevant to pursuing customized financial agreements, and contains examples of farms who have used alternative financing or were considering at the time of publication.
Land Use Regulations
There are a number Vermont state laws and programs that might affect a beginning farmer’s decision to purchase or lease land in a particular area. Having a good grasp of state regulations can help the farmer avoid or prevent unnecessary stumbling blocks before and conflicts with neighbors and local officials. Knowledge of certain state programs can also save considerable money in the form of tax benefits for the farmer and/or the landowner. The Vermont New Farmer Resource Hub's Land Use Regulations page provides an overview of some state laws and programs that might affect a beginning farmer's decision to purchase or lease land in a particular area. It discusses Vermont's nuisance laws, right to farm laws, Required Agricultural Practices and Current Use program. This information is not meant to substitute for sound legal advice. New farmers should seek counsel from a qualified attorney when the need arises.
Land Access and Tenure Resources
Farm Commons provides a variety of farmer-oriented print, audio and video resources on legal aspects of farm lease arrangements.
Land For Good, provides an excellent tutorial on Farm Leasing that introduces you to the benefits and challenges of leasing, explains types of farm leases, and explains when to use them. Land For Good also publishes handbooks for public and private landowners on leasing.
The Legal Guide to the Business of Farming in Vermont (2006) is available online and print version from UVM Center For Sustainable Agriculture, (802) 656-5459. Chapter III covers legal aspects of farmland tenure and leasing.
The National Young Farmer’s Coalition’s Finding Farmland: A Farmer's Guide to Working With Land Trusts guidebook provides an introduction to land trusts and explain the process of partnering with a land trust to access affordable farmland.
Renting in Vermont: Information Handbook for Tenants and Landlords outlines rights and responsibilities of housing landlords and tenants in VT.
UVM Center for Sustainable Agriculture’s Lease Agreements Guide for Land Owners and Farmers, (2002) covers the basics of what should be included in effective farmland lease agreements.
Vermont Land Link, helps Vermont’s farm seekers and farm property holders find each other. The site’s format is similar to classified listings, where farmland owners can post properties for sale or rent that can be easily searched. Farm seekers can also post profiles of themselves that landowners can search.
The Vermont New Farmer Network's Resources Guide for Vermont's New And Aspiring Farmers (2012) provides a discussion of the common challenges to securing affordable and productive farmland, and ways beginning farmers can address those challenges.