How AFT’s Buy, Protect, Sell Strategy Helps a New Generation Gain Access to Farmland
For over two decades, Lynne Reeck has stewarded Singing Hills Farm, twenty-five acres of rolling pasture just south of the Twin Cities in Minnesota. For many years, she rotated goats through paddocks of prairie grassland, hosted a diversity of wildlife under canopies of 300-year-old oak trees, and ran a beloved small creamery and cheesemaking plant out of her farmstead.
Two years ago, Lynne made the difficult decision to retire. She felt that it was time to transition the farm to its next steward. The property’s beautiful, peaceful setting next to Big Woods State Park, along with its proximity to major metropolitan areas, made it particularly attractive to non-farmers looking for an urban escape. But Lynne felt strongly that the land should be cared for by a future farmer, particularly someone who would grow food for local markets.
Just north of Singing Hills, the Lor family has been growing and selling fresh produce at local farmers markets in the St. Paul/Minneapolis area. For the past twenty years they’ve farmed on rented land, cobbling together a farm operation on multiple noncontiguous parcels. Today, it can take up to an hour to travel between their two parcels, depending on traffic. Neither parcel is close to where they live. Often, during the growing season, they will work late into the night and sometimes need to camp next to their fields to save time harvesting and driving to the farmers markets where they sell their produce.
Renting farmland is a constant source of stress for the family. Land has been sold out from under them more times than they can count. They have lost thousands of plants over the years when land they had been farming was suddenly sold without warning. They worry each year about whether their leases will be renewed and they are hesitant to make investments in their property, or diversify with more perennial crops or livestock, for fear of losing access to that stable land base.
Since 1980, American Farmland Trust has fought hard to make land accessible and affordable to farmers across the nation. As development pressure has picked up over the last few decades, and valuable farmland near urban markets becomes more expensive, this work is now more important than ever. As part of AFT’s Land Protection Projects, our Buy-Protect-Sell+ farmland program aims to facilitate farmland access opportunities by making land more affordable for emerging and next-generation farmers.
To help facilitate the transfer of farmland between Lynne Reeck and the Lors, AFT is partnering up with Renewing the Countryside, a local Minnesota nonprofit organization dedicated to working for a more just, vibrant, and sustainable rural America.
AFT plans to purchase Singing Hills Farm, protect the farmland with an agricultural conservation easement, and then sell the farm to the Lors at a reduced price. The easement removes the development rights from the land, limiting nonagricultural development and other uses that may threaten the future of farming. The removal of development rights not only ensures that the land can remain in active agricultural use, it also will reduce the overall price of the property, making the farm more affordable for the Lors to purchase. In addition, the easement will help ensure that the legacy of stewarding the land with sound farming practices continues in the future.
AFT and Renewing the Countryside are currently seeking donations to help cover the easement cost—the difference between the farm’s current purchase price and the price of the farm after it’s protected. Every dollar donated to this campaign will not only ensure the permanent protection of irreplaceable farmland, but it will also give the Lor family the opportunity to build a future in farming and keep the land affordable for future generations.
Fundraising for this project will conclude on April 30, 2022. Make a gift and help protect Singing Hills Farm by visiting https://www.renewingthecountryside.org/easement today!
To learn more about AFT’s Buy-Protect-Sell+ farmland program and strategy, visit https://farmlandinfo.org/media/buy-protect-sell-webinar-series