“How do I get on some land?”
It’s probably the question I hear most often from beginning farmers. It’s also among the most daunting. Americans are increasingly looking to farming as a viable career option, but land ownership is concentrating into fewer and fewer hands. Those hands are also increasingly distant from the land they hold, and are more likely than ever to belong to a faceless corporation. As if that wasn’t enough, land remains expensive and often available in parcels only suited to large-scale, industrial production. A person looking to buy farmland through conventional means will find few listings suitable for them, and when they do, will likely get outbid by far deeper pockets.
The Midwest, however, is rich in farmland. Our farmland has rich soil, and ample average rainfall from predictable, if intense, weather events. The problem of land access in this region is not a lack of land. It’s a matter of sorting through all the potential, gauging which is a true opportunity versus one steeped in risk, and making some hard decisions to find the best fit for your proposed farm business.
Over the coming months, I will be writing a series of blog posts addressing the needs of beginning farmers who are seeking access to land. Through research and interviews, the posts will: flesh out the struggles that prospective farmers face when attempting to access land for their farm businesses; outline the many considerations people must address as they seek access to land in Illinois; and most importantly, discuss the many options people have for gaining access to land. The options discussed will include ownership and the financing that makes it possible, rental and various lease agreements, and alternative options such as incubator farms and enterprise partnerships.
I will be attempting to sort through a lot of information, and I don’t have any intention of making the process sound easy. Like much of what we do at The Land Connection, these posts will be about asking good questions, making reliable plans, and getting access to resources. The hopeful thing is that the land is out there and, like you, it is eager to grow. Let’s see together how we can get you on it.