Online “Finding Farmland” Course for Beginning Farmers

An online  Finding Farmland Course, developed by the National Young Farmer Coalition (NYFC) and several partners, is a series of nine free lessons that prepare farmers to confidently approach the financial decisions related to land access and acquiring their own farm. The course, which opened in May 2019, compliments our Finding Farmland Calculator, which was released in 2018.

“The course is a unique education tool that features blog posts and interviews with land access experts, along with videos and resources—all presented in a flexible, interactive format to help farmers and educators learn at a pace that works for them,” says Michael Parker, Land Access Program Associate for NYFC.

The development of the course was supported by a grant from USDA NIFA’s Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development Program. Over the next month, the experts who helped create this resource will be available to answer your questions and respond to feedback.

Course content includes:

  • An orientation the course, including an introduction to the Finding Farmland Calculator and setting holistic farm goals;
  • Tenure options – consider the different forms of land tenure, and identify which suits your goals;
  • Financial planning- plan for success and translate that plan into numbers;
  • Credit – understand what lenders are looking for and how to make yourself a better loan candidate;
  • Financing options – learn about financing options available to beginning farmers, including special provisions via the USDA Farm Service Agency;
  • Idenfying partners – identify partners who can help you find and access affordable farmland;
  • Leasing farmland – understand best practices for land leasing and a framework for considering whether leasing or buying is right for you.
  • Buying farmland – gather tips for preparing to purchase, and introduce yourself to the real estate transaction process;
  • Farmland transfers – consider how transferring ownership of a retiring farmers’ business and/or land can reduce your risk.
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Spotlight on Sweet Rowen & Paul Lisai

by Melissa Pasanen

Paul Lisai started Sweet Rowen Farmstead in 2011 a few years after graduating from Sterling College in Craftsbury.  From experience working for Jones Farm, a conventional dairy, and Pete’s Greens, an organic vegetable farm, he learned what he wanted to do—and what he did not. Paul has carefully built his own farming business to balance risk and reward by maintaining a mix of markets for his milk, building a varied product line, and growing conservatively. 

Paul Lisai with his cows

Paul Lisai with his cows. Photo credit: Melissa Pasanen

Paul appreciated that dairy generates steady cash flow year-round, in contrast with much northern-climate, plant-based farming. On the flip side, he saw how hard it was to make a solid business shipping a commodity product like fluid milk. If he was going to do dairy, Paul concluded that he needed to create something value-added and do his own marketing and distribution like Pete’s Greens.

Continue reading

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Spotlight on Mara Hearst & Levy Lamb

by Melissa Pasanen

“I want to do something where I’m excited to wake up in the morning,” said Mara Hearst, the 26-year-old Bennington native, who started Levy Lamb in April 2018 in Dorset.  “Being involved in agriculture in your community is a really nice way to feel connected. So many people want to see me succeed. That gives me purpose.”

Mara Hearst, with her Levy Lamb ewes in Dorset, Vermont

Mara Hearst, with her Levy Lamb ewes in Dorset, Vermont. Photo credit: Melissa Pasanen.

Mara didn’t grow up farming, but her mother had a large vegetable garden and she has early memories of her family traveling to pick up turkeys raised at Someday Farm in East Dorset. She went away to college but came home to Vermont. “I felt like I could learn best actually working on a farm,” she recalled. Continue reading

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