Seeking farmland? The following is a brief reminder that a great farm opportunity might be hiding where you least expect it. Some of the best opportunities are not on the open market, and they are not listed publicly. They are found using the old fashioned method called word of mouth.
If you are seeking a farm to lease, buy, or for some other type of arrangement, you can enlist the help of people with LOCAL KNOWLEDGE who might be able to spread the word throughout a town or county about what you are looking for. They might know someone who might know someone who might know someone who is a landowner willing to sell or rent land and farm for a good deal. Who could some of these people be? Here are some ideas of people to contact
1. Selectboard chairs or members of the selectboard. These people have contact information listed publicly on town websites or at town halls, and are local, publicly engaged representatives to citizens of communities. Be respectful and courteous, and they will gladly assist you if they can.
2. Regional and town planning commissions. Contact information should be available publicly. Contact the chairs, and remind them that planning for agricultural development is a part of the planning process! Again, common courtesy can go a long way, and you might get some leads sooner or later.
3. Conservation Commission members. These citizens have protection of town natural resources at heart. They volunteer to serve publicly on the commissions, and at least the chair’s contact information will be available through the town office. They will likely identify with you, and understand that responsible agricultural land use is a good way to conserve town natural resources.
4. State legislature representatives. They will be especially responsive if you live and vote within their area of service. They will know people, who know people who know people. And those people might know a farm owner who does not want to go the open market real estate route for selling the farm, and would like to keep the land in agricultural production as a legacy.
5. Farmers market managers. They have a good general radar on locally produced food and the land it comes from. There could be a connection to be made.
There are undoubtedly others you can think of. The more people you talk to, the greater chance you will be referred to responsive people on the above list, or other socially engaged people who know a lot of people (who know people who know people, you get the point…)
Finally, to complement your word of mouth message, you can craft a short written communication to circulate to people willing to pass on the message. See this blog for tips on writing the communication. It will serve as a good reference point for those interested in following up with you as a farm seeker.