Friday, April 26, 2013

Resources for New Farmers Seeking Land

Excerpted from Finding Good Farmland, ebook version 1.01 © 2013
by Ann Larkin Hansen. All rights reserved.


There are many wonderful state and regional resources devoted to sustainable agriculture with programs specific to new farmers. Find those in your area with Internet searches using the key words “beginning farmer,” “sustainable agriculture,” “organic farming,” and related terms. I’ve listed just a few of my favorites below to get you started.

Extra Materials

Assessment Forms
Finding Good Farmland assessment forms will guide you in gathering information about the land you are considering and ultimately help you settle on the right farm for you.


The Greenhorns
A national grassroots organization of young sustainable farmers, for young sustainable farmers, offers networking, advocacy, guides, education, and various other resources with enthusiasm and erudition. If you’re looking for inspiration as well as resources, don’t miss this site.

Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES)
Like NCAT-ATTRA, this organization provides in-depth information on many aspects of organic farming, with a lot of information and programs specific to new farmers. MOSES also organizes the Organic Farming Conference each late winter in La Crosse, Wisconsin, the nation’s largest gathering dedicated to organic farming.

National Young Farmers Coalition
National Young Farmers Coalition “is a group of young and sustainable farmers organizing for our collective success: we’re defining the issues that beginning farmers face, fighting for the policy change that we need, and bringing farmers together in person and online to learn, share and build a stronger community.” The group offers inspiration and information.


Try the Rodale Institute’s listings at, and the Land Stewardship Project’s “Seeking Farmers-Seeking Land” clearinghouse listings at
Agriseek lists government and bank foreclosures as well as land available for rent or lease.

American Ground Water Trust
A superb resource for all issues pertaining to groundwater.

Beginning Farmers
Offers a collection of resources for finding and financing land, with many links to other programs and farmland-for-sale websites.

Farm & Home Publishers
Buy plat books on line at this website, as well as county maps.

American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers
Many of the members are real estate agents as well.

American Society of Home Inspectors
An on line resource for finding a professional building inspector in your area.

Barn Again
The web address takes you to a national preservation website; just type in “Barn Preservation” or “Barn Again” in the search box to get to the relevant resources and information on preserving and restoring old barns.

Canada National Farmers Union, Local 316, New Farm Project
This group’s “new farmers project” offers training sessions on finances, fencing, organic farming, and sustainable practices, plus no-interest microfinancing for facilities and equipment, to beginning producers for free — as long as you pass it on. Located near Kingston, Ontario.

Collaborative Regional Alliance For Farmer Training (CRAFT)
CRAFT offers well-structured farm internships which involve a number of farms cooperating to give their interns a broader experience than they would obtain on a single farm. To find if there is a CRAFT program organized in your state or region, check the website for links to other CRAFTs and other, similar, programs.

Cornell University Northeast Beginning Farmers Project
A gem of a regional resource for the Northeast, offering events, on line courses, publications, and a program to link new farmers to older or retiring farmers.

Farm Credit System
Offers farm loans and rural housing loans to qualified candidates through local farm credit associations.

Farm Service Agency
Offers both direct loans and guarantees of loans from commercial lenders.

Farmer Veteran Coalition
Partners with numerous other organizations to assist former servicemembers in starting farm enterprises.

Good Food Jobs
Lists a mix of apprenticeships and positions requiring more advanced skills, some on the farm and others in related sectors such as farmers’ market managers, local marketing of farm products, and sustainable ag education.

Google Earth
This program can be downloaded for free and is an invaluable tool for exploring a farm neighborhood, especially if you want to find out what’s behind that line of trees or down that dead-end road

Government Auctions
Has state-by-state foreclosure listings that include land.

Offers networking and resources for grass-based livestock production. The group’s dairy grazing internship offers 4,000 paid hours over two years with the goal of getting a new farmer to the point of being able to start his or her own operation or work as a herd manager.

Intentional Communities
Some of these have agricultural leanings; check out the site for those that might strike a philosophic chord and offer a lower-cost opportunity to get on to land.

International Farm Transition Network
Offers links to farm transition and farm link programs in many states.

Land Stewardship Project
Land Stewardship Project is a Minnesota-based non-profit organization whose Farm Beginnings project is being copied in several other states. The project combines classroom training with hands-on mentoring from experienced farmers. The website has links to programs in other areas.
Property listings.

Lands of America
Property listings.

Midwest Bio-Ag
Specialists in organic production, this business has expanded to cover much of the country. Soil testing, organic soil amendments, and more.

National Agricultural Statistics Service
An interesting place to noodle around for information on what’s happening where in the agricultural sector, especially prices and levels of production.

National Atlas
National Atlas has maps of climate, agriculture, environmental hazards, ground and surface waters, and related topics. An excellent place to begin exploring the region, state, or county where you wish to farm.

National Center for Appropriate Technology — ATTRA Project (Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas)
A gold mine of free online information on all aspects of sustainable farming, from soil and water to marketing to lists of farm internships. Don’t miss this site!

National Environmental Services Center
The NESC, based at the University of West Virginia, offers plentiful and excellent resources on drinking water and wastewater, including how to protect your private drinking water source from contamination.

New England Small Farm Institute
A wealth of resources for beginning farmers and a mentoring program.

A public-interest journalism website with information on fracking in the U.S.

Ranch and Country International Properties
Property listings

Rodale Institute
Property listings

Rural Development Agency

Offers both direct loans and guarantees for rural housing.

Land Stewardship Project
Property listings
Property listings.

Rural Property Finder
Property listings.

An association of working and retired business executives that offer free one-on-one mentoring to new business owners. An excellent resource.

Shared Earth
Connects gardeners with free land to garden.

Slow Money
Offers advice and insight on an exciting and innovative paradigm for beginning farmers: Community investment in a farm enterprise.

SPIN farming
Offers resource materials for developing profitable, very small-scale vegetable production in non-rural areas.

Small Farm Programs
Has contact information and links to small farm institutes at land grant colleges and universities across the country.
A website maintained by the La Crosse Tribune in Wisconsin, chronicling the risks of stray voltage to rural properties, particularly dairies.

USDA Economic Research Service
Excellent information on all aspects of the farm economy.

USDA National Agricultural Library Rural Information Center
Click on the Rural and Community Development page for information and resources on rural America. Not a lot on getting land or starting a farm, but plenty of general useful information about what rural life is like and what general resources are available for residents.

USDA National Agricultural Library Start2Farm Program
A clearinghouse for USDA Beginning Farmer and Rancher programs and resources, including an “accessing land” page with links to regional programs that assist beginning farmers in finding land.

USDA Real Estate for Sale
Lists government land auctions and properties for sale which includes farms and rural acreage.

U.S. Drought Monitor
Current drought conditions nationwide

United Country Real Estate
Property listings.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
has excellent detailed information on water quality and the many pollutants that can afflict private water supplies.

U.S. Land and Home Real Estate
Property listings.

U.S. Geological Survey
Offers topographic maps, aerial photos, information on earthquake, landslide, flood and drought hazards, and a plethora of data and publications on water quality, Search for the “National Water Quality Assessment Program” for information on ag chemicals and other pollutants in water supplies

Wisconsin Water Well Association
Offers all sorts of resources for Wisconsin well owners, from where to find contractors to what sorts of contaminants occur in state groundwater. If you don’t live in Wisconsin, search for a similar organization in your state.

Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms
An international organization linking volunteers with organic farmers. If you don’t need pay and have a taste for foreign adventures check out this site. North American opportunities are listed as well if you don’t care to go abroad.

Recommended Reading

Gardner, Frank D. Traditional American Farming Techniques, 2001, Lyons Press.

Hartigan, Gerry. Country Plumbing: Living with a Septic System, 1984, Alan C. Hood & Co.

Hansen, Ann Larkin. The Organic Farming Manual. Storey Publishing, 2010.
A comprehensive and practical introduction to small-scale organic farming, with special attention to finding the right land and suiting the farm enterprise to the farm, the markets, and the region.

Jordan, Teresa (Ed.). Graining the Mare: The Poetry of Ranch Women, 1994, Gibbs Smith

Kains, Maurice. Five Acres and Independence, 2009, BN Publishing

Logsdon, Gene. The Contrary Farmer, 1993, Chelsea Green Publishing.

Macher, Ron. Making Your Small Farm Profitable. Storey Publishing, 1999.
This crisply written book by the editor of Small Farm Today magazine is packed with excellent advice on small-scale farming and direct marketing, and includes some brief sections on assessing land and access to markets. Macher also discusses how to fit your enterprise to your land.

Midwest Plan Service. Farmstead Planning Handbook, 1982/1974.
An oldie but goodie; discusses all aspects of designing or expanding a farmstead, and often gives ideas on what can be done to fix drawbacks or problems. The MWPS also did a number of extremely useful other publications in its early days on many aspects of farming, especially livestock farming. Check out the MWPS website.

Scher, Les and Carol. Finding & Buying Your Place in the Country, 5th ed. Dearborn, 2000.
Good, pithy advice on rural land transactions.

Seltzer, Curtis. How to Be a Dirt-Smart Buyer of Country Property. Infinity Publishing, 2007.
At 750 pages, this book is massive, and full of discourses on tangential topics. It’s also a gold mine of information on all aspects of buying and selling rural land for all sorts of purposes.

Stone, Lin. How to Buy Land at Tax Sales: A Step-by-Step Guide to Buying Land at Tax Sales. Truman Publishing, 1998.
An easy-to-read manual packed with specific information on government sales of tax-forfeit properties. If you choose to look into this type of real estate sale, this is an essential read since there are many technical details.

Woginrich, Jenna. Barnheart: The Incurable Longing for a Farm of One’s Own, 2011, Storey Publishing.

Woginrich, Jenna. Chick Days: An Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Raising Chickens from Hatching to Laying, 2010, Storey Publishing.

Woginrich, Jenna. Made from Scratch: Discovering the Pleasures of a Handmade Life, 2008, Storey Publishing

Excerpted from Finding Good Farmland, Ebook version 1.01 © 2013 by Ann Larkin Hansen. All rights reserved.

1 comment:

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