Farmland: who will control farm land 20 years from now?

POSTED IN For Growers ON 6/10/2017

Sell A Farm, Buy A Farm, Save A Farm

Sell A Farm, Buy A Farm, Save A Farm


by Ross Boissoneau

“In the next 20 years, 70 percent of the privately owned farmland in the United States will change hands. Our region has over 80,000 acres,” says Sam Plotkin, farm programs manager at the Leelanau Conservancy.

Meanwhile, 20- and 30-somethings view farming as an emerging career option, as “farm to table” dining and craft wine and beer generate more visibility. The challenge is how to connect those farmers who want to sell with those looking to buy.

Farmer to Farmer

That’s the rationale behind a new collaboration between the Leelanau Conservancy, the Grand Traverse Conservancy, Taste the Local Difference and MSU Horticulture Station. Farmer to Farmer is a web-based platform that organizers believe will help those looking to purchase or sell farms and farmland.

Plotkin says an aging agricultural industry will inevitably lead to what he calls “a significant generational property transfer.” That’s where Farmer to Farmer – – comes in. The website (expected to launch next week) will include a database of farmers looking to divest themselves of land holdings and persons looking for agricultural opportunities. Tricia Phelps, operations director at Taste the Local Difference, says it is a marriage of today’s tech world with the agricultural industry that helped shape the region. “It’s an opportunity offered by technology…going back to our agrarian roots,” she says.

Farmer to Farmer is intended to keep farmland in the hands of those who see the value of tilling the soil, rather than having property sold for development.

Opportunities in an Essential Industry

Agriculture is increasingly being looked upon favorably, says Phelps, because of both its economic impact and its scenic beauty. “Farms weren’t looked at as part of the business community, as being important to the economy,” she says.

No more. The wine, brewing and distilling industries have focused attention on growing everything from grapes to hops, rye and wheat, while restaurants clamor for fresh, local meats and vegetables.

Despite their far-reaching social networks, many younger people are stymied when looking to get into agriculture, often just communicating with their peers in the 25-to-35 age range – not the likely age of someone looking to get out of farming.

But they’re hardly the only ones looking. “In the past three months, I’ve had 15 people call me looking to buy or lease, or sell or lease. And I only serve one county,” says Plotkin. That’s where the regional approach will broaden the audience; the site will list properties for sale in Grand Traverse, Leelanau, Benzie and Antrim counties. Potential buyers will be able to search by price, acreage, or location, as well as whether they are looking to buy, lease, lease to buy, or enter into partnership with the owner.

The site will also list what machinery or equipment is available, any buildings, and what kinds of farm-related jobs are available. “That’s what we think is unique,” Plotkin says. Think of it as a combination of Craigslist and Zillow for farming.

Both Plotkin and Phelps add that the site is in no way meant as a replacement for the real estate industry, but rather to complement it. Whether a landowner or a realtor, there will be no cost to post on the new site, they say.

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