New Farmers Struggle to find Land Lease Agreements

No Land to LeaseNew farmers inspired by the local and organic food movements can’t find the real estate.

By Sarah Laskow – The American Prospect

EXCERPT: Farmland in the United States has been disappearing since World War II, and in the past 50 years, commercial and residential developers have come to control over 20 percent of U.S. farmland. The takeover began slowly at 75 million acres in the first 25 years and ballooned to another 171 million in the second half. What land remains has grown more expensive. Between 2000 and 2008, the real-estate value of farmland more than doubled. The areas where many beginning farmers want to settle — close to cities like New York City, Atlanta, or San Francisco — are places with robust markets for the sustainably grown crops these farmers want to raise. But such locations also have the most expensive land. Property can sell at $6,000, $10,000 an acre, adding up to far greater sums than farmers can expect to repay selling vegetables. When a farmer named Erica Frenay and her husband were seeking land near Ithaca, New York, to raise chickens, turkeys, and pigs for sale (along with vegetables for their family), they resorted to driving around to look for promising tracts and then sending the owners polite letters asking if they would consider selling.

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