The challenges young farmers face today seem quite the same in any country. Land prices are too high, commodity and large-scale farming monopolize marketplaces, and the average age of a nation’s farmers increases steadily. We see it in all the places Garden Culture Magazine circulates; the UK, US, Australia, and Canada. Someone has fashioned various programs to link aspiring farmers under 30 with land in all of them, but the best one I’ve seen to date exists in Canada.
One newspaper dubbed The Young Agrarians Land Matching Program, “Craigslist for Farming.” It’s a breath of fresh air compared to the commercial realtor manager approach commonly found in the US. There are 60 some land matching programs in the US scattered across the states, but not one of them covers the possibilities nationwide. Meanwhile, a charity-managed incubator style seems the common approach in the UK.
The Young Agrarians program is limited to farms in British Columbia, but their interactive map shows opportunities across the country. The reason for this is that zoning isn’t national in Canada, just as it isn’t in the US and many other countries. A fact which leaves farmland leasing opportunities helter-skelter and hard to locate.
For instance, California FarmLink maintains a database of available land. A tedious searching process, and in 20 attempts to find organic market garden land in that state, I came up with no results at all. Who has the time and patience for that? Why are organic options piled up with conventional properties?
As I said, the Young Agrarians’ approach to connecting farmers seeking land to available options is a breath of fresh air. The YA website connects young farmers who grow organically or use eco practices with the appropriate land. It doesn’t require remediation to fit their needs. Meanwhile, most of the farmland available through similar US programs are rich in chemicals and GMO chaff. That puff of fresh air is building into a breeze.
Just as you find in the US or UK, the land share available for lease or sale is often enrolled in a farmland preservation program. Sometimes known as a conservancy, which in British Columbia is officially known as the Agricultural Land Reserve. Currently, the land share U-Map shows available land or farms scattered across the country from British Columbia to New Brunswick. They are more common in the west than the east, but there are opportunities for young farmers nationwide.
How much land can young BC farmers get access to through the YA Land Matching Program? Anywhere from 1 acre to 100 acres. Sometimes it comes with living accommodations, other times not, though a mobile home is a possible remedy. The landowner lists their unused farmland, and interested new farmers contact them through Young Agrarians website messaging.
The deal is struck between the landowner and land user. There’s no realtor or charity organization involved. Some opportunities are rural locations within reasonable distance for city marketing. Others are in a city, like the 10-acre property currently available in Toronto listed through Ontario’s land link program. Now there’s a young farmer’s dream location, in or on the edge of a major city. But the cost per acre in such a spot might be steeper than a few miles farther from town.
It’s interesting that the background on each individual listing info page gives you a view of the property being offered. So, it’s not a sight unseen situation. And no doubt the young farmers who apply to use each parcel will visit the property before sealing the deal. After all, you can’t pull up the crops and move them if things aren’t up to snuff. It’s not like container grown urban farming designed for a move at a moments notice. These farmland leases are a major commitment for a year to ten years of your life.
The U-Map also gives instant access to 20 other similar land projects, such as the Yukon Agriculture Land Link being explored by the provincial government. They call these listings ‘Land Resources’. A young US farmer seeking land for lease in New England will find a regional interactive map. Researching options beyond that might take them to sort through further resources region by region or state by state. Yet, like any other career path, farmers relocate to where the work is.
Not quite ready to take on such a commitment, but really want to learn the ropes of gain more experience first? The Young Agrarians’ blog list jobs that young farmers not ready to go it alone will find perfect. Each province or territory has its own category for such posts, and there was even one farm employment opportunity in Wyoming. So, Young Agrarians’ influence reaches beyond British Columbia and Canada. They also announce education and grant opportunities on the blog. It’s young farmer news central.
Wouldn’t it be great if young farmers in the US, UK, and other countries had a similar resource? It would certainly assist in getting more people under the age of 30 growing pesticide-free food using environmentally friendly farming methods.
Images courtesy of Young Agrarians via Facebook.