Every year, America loses 1.2 million acres of farmland - an area twice the size of Rhode Island - much of it our best and most productive farmland near where most Americans live. In Connecticut and across the nation, American Farmland Trust is a vital link between farmers, conservationists and policymakers, working to protect the best farmland, direct growth away from agricultural resources, provide healthy local food to all citizens, and help communities sustain local farms and farming.
Alliance to Hold Annual Meeting on November 13
Please join the Working Lands Alliance
for our Annual Meeting and
Luncheon, which will be held on Wednesday,
November 13th from 12 pm to 2 pm in the Old Judiciary Room
at the State Capitol in Hartford, CT. This year's theme will be Celebrating 35 Years of Farmland Preservation
in Connecticut, in honor of the 35th anniversary of Connecticut’s Farmland
Preservation Program. This program was created in 1978 and
was one of the first programs of its kind in the country. Enjoy Connecticut-grown
fare and help us honor the legislators, individuals and organizations that have
been instrumental in farmland preservation efforts this year. Tickets are $20
per person and can be purchased here.
For more details, visit workinglandsalliance.org or contact Lisa Bassani at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Join Us for Three Exciting Workshops on Farming Protected Land
American Farmland Trust will be hosting three exciting workshops in Connecticut, October 10 and 17, and November 2, 2013, to learn about creating farm friendly conservation easements and stewarding protected agricultural lands. The workshops will also present a chance to discuss the opportunities and challenges of farming protected land with farmers!
Farming Protected Land Workshops:
- October 10: 12 pm – 5 pm in Woodstock, CT (with afternoon field visit to Mayhill Farm)
- October 17: 9:30 am – 3:30 pm in New Milford, CT (with afternoon field visits to two Bridgewater farms)
- November 2: 9:30 am – 3:30 pm in Simsbury, CT
If you are interested in joining us, please register here. Space is limited!
Trust’s Forums Examine Ways to Address Land Access and Affordability
New England farmland in farming and ensuring its availability for the next
generation of farmers is the focus of two upcoming American Farmland Trust forums.
Later this month, American Farmland Trust's Working Lands Alliance and other Connecticut
partners will hold a day-long conversation to address one of the biggest
barriers for new and established farmers—access to affordable farmland. In
November, American Farmland Trust will convene its 80 Farmland Advisors for a two-day immersion in
the topic, exploring how advisors can work with farmers and farmland owners on
farmland transfer and tenure options. “If we want land to stay in farming,”
notes American Farmland Trust’s New England Director Cris Coffin, “we need
multiple strategies and a better understanding of what will motivate farmland
owners to sell or lease land to a next generation farmer. By sharing
information about what works and what more is needed, we can build New England’s
capacity to keep farmland in farming from one generation to the next.”
Nominations Open for
Connecticut's Farmland Preservation Pathfinder Awards
The Working Lands Alliance, a project of American Farmland Trust,
is pleased to announce that nominations are open for its 2013 Farmland
Preservation Pathfinder Awards. Established in 2003, these prestigious
awards are designed to recognize individuals and groups that have significantly
advanced farmland preservation in Connecticut through leadership, advocacy,
planning and education. Award winners over the last 10 years have included
municipalities, land trusts, farmers, town committees and many individuals and
groups that have worked tirelessly to preserve Connecticut's most valuable and
vulnerable resource—its farmland.
forms and instructions can be downloaded at workinglandsalliance.org. Nominations
are open now through October 18, 2013, in three categories. Award winners will be honored at the Working Lands
Alliance Annual Meeting on November 13.
England Webinar and Listening Sessions on Food Safety Modernization Act
federal Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) will significantly impact how food
in New England and around the country is grown, handled and processed. Farmers,
consumers and organizations that support farms and farmland conservation all
have a stake in how FSMA is implemented. You can help make it a workable law
that improves food safety and supports the type and scale of agriculture that
is prevalent in New England. As part of American Farmland Trust’s Regional
Policy Project, we recently collaborated with partners to host a
webinar about the FSMA, in advance of three listening
sessions that will
take place in New England on August 19, 20 and 22. “Thanks to our
region’s excellent Congressional delegation, we have a chance at these
listening sessions to weigh in with our thoughts and concerns,” said
American Farmland Trust's New England Director, Cris Coffin. “Let’s make
the most of this opportunity.”
American Farmland Trust Hosts Workshop for Connecticut Landowners
on “Planning Your Land’s Future”
On July 30, American Farmland Trust’s Kip Kolesinskas joined with
University of Vermont Extension specialist Dr. Bob Parsons and Norm Bender from
University of Connecticut Cooperative Extension System at a workshop to help farm
families, farmers and non-farming landowners plan for their land’s
future. The workshop, held in Haddam, Connecticut, covered estate planning and
land transfer, risk management tools, land protection options and the basics of
land rental and lease options. Kolesinskas, Consulting Conservation
Scientist to American Farmland Trust, was pleased that participating landowners were interested in
exploring more conservation options for their land and ways to keep it in
production in the future. Look for opportunities to participate in additional
workshops on the topic of land transfers next year.
Connecticut Governor Signs Bill Protecting State-Owned Farmland
the edges of the Southbury Training School’s rolling farmland, Connecticut
Governor Dannel Malloy signed a
bill on July 16 that would permanently protect the school’s 825 acres of state-owned farmland. The legislation conveys a conservation
easement to the Southbury Land Trust and transfers custody of the land
state Department of Agriculture. The
State of Connecticut will continue to own the farmland and is
a portion of it for an incubator program for new and beginning farmers.
“We applaud Governor Malloy and the Legislature for their foresight
in protecting this farmland in perpetuity,” said Lisa Bassani, Project
for Working Lands Alliance, a broad-based state coalition and project of
American Farmland Trust. This bill was one of Working Lands Alliance’s
top legislative priorities this year.
New England Project Highlights Programs and Policies to Promote Farmland Access
affordable land to lease or to buy is one of the major challenges facing the
next generation of farmers in New England. Two new reports produced by the Land
Access Project—a regional project in which American Farmland Trust
participated—offer recommendations on ways that states, the U.S. Department of
Agriculture, farm and conservation organizations, land trusts, and private
investors can help to improve access to land for new and beginning farmers. The Farmland
Access and Tenure Innovations report focuses on strategies to encourage
public and private landowners to sell or lease their land to beginning
farmers. The second report, Does
the Option at Agricultural Value Protect Farmland for Beginning Farmers,
analyzes a legal requirement—used by both the Massachusetts and Vermont
farmland protection programs, as well as some land trusts—that farmland under
conservation easement be sold at its agricultural value rather than market
value. This would ensure the affordability of protected land for farmers,
particularly beginning farmers.
Successful Legislative Session Wraps up in Connecticut
5, Connecticut ended its 2013 legislative session with some big wins for
farmland preservation. The bill to preserve 825 acres of state-owned farmland
at the Southbury Training School passed unanimously in both the House
and Senate and will
be signed by Governor Dannel Malloy. This bill was a top priority of the
Working Lands Alliance (WLA), a project of American Farmland Trust. WLA also successfully defended the Community Investment Act (CIA) from a proposed raid of $4 million in funds. Even
better, the final budget actually added a significant new source of revenue to
CIA, increasing the total funds available to support farmland protection
efforts. Lastly, Connecticut’s Farmland Preservation Program, thanks to WLA's strong advocacy work, will
receive another $20 million in total bond funds over the next two fiscal years. All in all, the 2013 session was a
Regional Convening Considers New England's Farmland Future
month, in partnership with Land For Good and in collaboration with the six New
England state Departments of Agriculture and state USDA-NRCS offices, American
Farmland Trust convened 85 of the region’s farm and conservation leaders in
Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to discuss New England’s farmland future. Topics
ranged from strengthening farmland protection tools, to expanding farmland
access for new and established farmers, to improving farmland resiliency in the
face of climate change. Participants explored opportunities for collective
action and utilized a series of maps, produced in collaboration with the
Massachusetts USDA-NRCS, to explore trends in farmland protection, development
and conservation. “The convening helped identify some important opportunities
and challenges around the region,” said Cris Coffin, American Farmland Trust’s
New England Director. “We hope these materials
and findings will help inform farmland-related work around the region and
spur new projects and collective action.”
Alliance Hosts Successful Pizzapalooza Fundraiser
On May 16th, the Working Lands Alliance hosted a
“Pizzapalooza,” a fundraiser to support WLA’s efforts to protect Connecticut’s
productive farmland. Nearly 200 people turned out for the successful event,
held at Common Ground High School in
New Haven. Those in attendance enjoyed pizza from Big Green Truck Pizza, local cheese
from Arethusa Farm, local beer from
Thomas Hooker Brewery and Berkshire Brewing, and bluegrass music by the New
Haven-based Five in the Chamber. The crowd included some longtime WLA
supporters as well as many new friends who came to learn about WLA’s work and
legislative accomplishments. WLA thanks its outstanding sponsors for this event:
Green Village Initiative, Zinc Restaurant and Kitchen Zinc, The Wine Thief,
Chabaso Bakery, and Sono Baking Company & Café.
Farmland Advisors Spring into Action in the Northeast
Farmland Trust and Land for Good’s Farmland
Advisors program is educating agriculture service providers to help the next generation
of farmers access land and help farm families facilitate the transfer to
the next generation. Farmland Advisors started in February with a webinar for
the program’s 80
participants, from New York and New England. The program is funded by a grant from the Northeast SARE Professional Development Program
and support from a Farm Credit
Northeast AgEnhancment grant. Participants represent land trusts,
beginning farmer organizations, extension offices, lending institutions and
local and state agencies.
Updated Guide Helps Connecticut Communities Plan for Agriculture
Across Connecticut, local officials are increasingly cognizant of the economic, social, and environmental contributions that farms, farmers and farmland provide to their communities. To help municipal governments find ways to support and grow agriculture at the local level, American Farmland Trust (AFT) and the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities (CCM) have updated the very successful joint publication: Planning for Agriculture: A Guide For Connecticut Municipalities. “Virtually every local municipal board makes decisions that impact local farms,” says Cris Coffin, AFT’s New England Director. “This publication will help guide local officials in making decisions that not only sustain local farms, but help them grow and create new enterprises and steward their farmland for future generations.”
Farmland Protection Retreat
Focuses on New England Opportunities & Challenges
retreat organized by American Farmland Trust brought together more than 50 of
the region’s leading farmland protection practitioners, including state agency
staff, USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) State Conservationists and
program managers, and land trust representatives, to brainstorm farmland protection
challenges and strategies and discuss the federal Farm and Ranch Lands
Protection Program (FRPP). Joining the group were New Hampshire Commissioner of
Agriculture Lorraine Merrill, Connecticut Commissioner of Agriculture Steve
Reviczky, and three guests from the national USDA-NRCS office, including
Richard Sims, NRCS Regional Conservationist for the Northeast, and Jeremy
Stone, the national FRPP program manager. Cris Coffin, American Farmland Trust
New England Director, notes that AFT is working to make this retreat an annual
event. “This kind of regional shoptalk is invaluable both in helping to
strengthen relationships and in advancing farmland protection innovations around
the region,” remarks Coffin.
agriculture continues to grow and diversify in Connecticut, local officials are
seeking information on how to address livestock in their communities. American
Farmland Trust recently teamed up with Eastern
Connecticut Resource Conservation and Development Area, Inc. and the
University of Connecticut Cooperative Extension System to produce a new guide
to help municipalities. The guide, Guidance
and Recommendations For Connecticut Municipal Zoning Regulations and Ordinances
For Livestock, funded by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service in
Connecticut, aims to educate municipal officials about zoning options for
livestock and provides sources of expertise and assistance. The document can be viewed or downloaded at: www.farmland.org/newengland/.
Farmland ConneCTions: A Guide for Land Leasing
Access to land can be a major obstacle to young and veteran farmers alike. Leasing farmland from towns, institutions and land trusts provides an opportunity for beginning and expanding farmers to embark on new farm ventures or grow their farm businesses. Whether five acres or 100 acres, leased land can help keep farms thriving while creating jobs and providing local food. To help landowners and land seekers think through farm leasing and develop successful lease arrangements, we developed a new guide along with the University of Connecticut called Farmland ConneCTions: Leasing Farmland in Connecticut [PDF]. Two upcoming webinars on the guide will cover tenure options, practical and legal considerations in drafting a lease, community farms and risk management options.
Learn more about the guide!
More About Our Work in Connecticut
A pivotal part of our advocacy work in Connecticut is performed by the Working Lands Alliance (WLA). Established in 2000, WLA is a statewide coalition of farmers, conservationists, anti-hunger groups and municipal leaders working together to increase the state’s commitment to farmland preservation. WLA’s efforts focus on strengthening the state’s commitment to Connecticut’s Farmland Preservation Program and other new agriculture viability programs.
Another year has come to pass and with it a list of successes—and challenges—impacting farms and food across New England. 2011 was marked by unusual weather, underscoring the need for effective policies and programs to keep farms thriving despite the inherent risks and to help support strong local food systems.
This year, we worked with a wide variety of partners throughout New England to promote the critical importance of farms and farmland to New England’s economy, environment, public health, community character and livability. Here are a few highlights from our work across the region. Read more about our accomplishments from the past year in New England and see a snapshot of what lies ahead.
The last of the acclaimed Dinners at the Farm were held over three beautiful nights at Old Maids Farm in South Glastonbury, CT. Working Lands Alliance—a project of American Farmland Trust—was one of only four organizations selected as a beneficiary. At the same time, Good Tastes Kitchen of Newburyport hosted a farm-to-table event at Cider Hill Farm, in Amesbury, MA. Chefs at both events delighted guests with a feast of locally grown products sourced from the host farms and other local producers. The hugely popular dinners are intended to generate awareness of the vitality of the local farming community and the delicious food it provides.
American Farmland Trust and Connecticut Conference of Municipalities are currently providing technical assistance to help communities plan for agriculture. Six municipalities—Coventry, Durham, Eastford, North Stonington, Preston and Woodbridge—were selected to receive technical assistance to implement one of the strategies discussed in the Planning for Agriculture: A Guide for Connecticut Municipalities. The towns are focusing on strategies such as: initiating an Agricultural Commission; reviewing farm tax reduction options; encouraging buy local opportunities; including agriculture in town conservation and development plans; and developing right-to-farm ordinances.
Finally, a website to help you find locally grown food and farm products in Connecticut. Visit BuyCTGrown.com to search for local products, sign up for in-season alerts for you favorite fruits and vegetables, reminders about upcoming food and farm events, or delectable seasonal recipes from Connecticut chefs and more. The 2009 membership enrollment packet is now available for farms and other businesses.
New England Field Office
Working Lands Alliance Project Director &
New England Project Manager