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The Field to Farm Project

The Background:

Monmouth County boasts some of the best farmland soils in the state of New Jersey.It is also uniquely situated between New York City and Philadelphia with excellent market opportunities.  However, intense residential and commercial real estate development and sky high land values, have led many families to sell the family farm over the past few decades. 

Yet, farmland still remains.  Approximately 39,000 acres of farmland remain in the county according to the 2012 Agricultural Census data, with roughly 30% of that land enrolled in the New Jersey Farmland Preservation Program.  Other farmlands remain unpreserved, but are still being farmed or are available for farming.

The Field to Farm Project is about ensuring that our remaining farmland stays farmed.  If you own land and need help connecting with resources to keep it that way, your land might be an opportunity for someone else looking to expand, gain experience or start out.  We are here to help people connect when mutually beneficial. 

The Problem:

“Preservation of the land does not preserve
the farmer”

Although successful preservation efforts have secured 30% of farmland in Monmouth through permanent protection agreements, we have found that preservation of the land is not enough to preserve the farmer and farm business.  Land values remain very high, even for preserved farms.  Some farmland owners do not want to permanently deed restrict their land for various reasons.  Furthermore, some farmlands are not eligible for permanent preservation, but still hold a high agricultural value to the community.

The transfer of farms to a new generation is one of the biggest challenges facing agriculture in Monmouth County.  Transferring a farm is often difficult for farm families due to complicated family, business, legal and tax issues, and farms can be at risk of being lost to real estate development during this transition. 

At the same time, beginning farmers – particularly those that did not grow up on a farm – face substantial barriers in finding land and launching successful businesses.  These challenges are significant in New Jersey as more than 3,000 farmers are over the age of 65 – 33% of all farmers – and only 16% of farmers are beginning farmers. 

A majority of farms in Monmouth are owned by farmers that are at or nearing retirement age.  Often times there is no identified “next generation” that wants to take over the farm.  In other cases, there is a farm manager or other party interested in taking over the farm, but resources are needed to guide the process and allow for a successful transfer over time.

Meanwhile, there are a growing number of people that want to enter farming and can’t find the land to do it.  Sometimes the land that is available is too expensive to buy, sometimes they can’t negotiate a stable lease arrangement, or sometimes they want to work with a more experienced farmer before taking over the reins themselves. 

The Field to Farm Project

The Field to Farm Project is about bringing people together to begin to establish a network that can help bridge the gap in our community to aid in the transfer of farmlands.  Monmouth Conservation Foundation is working in collaboration with the various partners around New Jersey to leverage resources on the local level. 

The First Step

Give us a call.  We will ask you some very basic first questions and then ask to set up a time to meet in person.

What Will the Meeting Be Like?

The first meeting is about understanding your challenges, goals, and aspirations on the farm. 

All meetings are confidential.  Anything that is discussed or any information we collect is never shared without your express permission.  Each situation is as unique as each piece of farmland, no two are alike.  Therefore, a lot of questions will be asked to help us understand your farm and get to know you better.

What’s In It for Us?

The bottom line:  Ensuring our farm businesses are thriving is another way of ensuring the farm does not get developed.  The Field to Farm Project is about connecting people in our community to transition our farm businesses. 

Monmouth Conservation Foundation is a nonprofit land trust dedicated to the preservation of land in our county.  For the past 40 years we have been preserving land for farms, parks, and open space.  We are still doing that through the purchase of land and preservation agreements to.  Through years of experience with farmland preservation, we have also learned that preserving farmland isn’t enough to preserve the farmer.  For the land to truly be a farm, it’s about ensuring farm businesses remain in the area.

Please contact Amanda at (732) 671-7000 or abrockwell@monmouthconservation.org.

Other Resources:

New Jersey Farm Link
http://www.nj.gov/agriculture/sadc/farmlink/

National Young Farmers Coalition
http://www.youngfarmers.org/policy/landaccess/

Dirt Capital Partners
http://www.dirtpartners.com/

Rutgers Cooperative Extension
https://njaes.rutgers.edu/ag/

Farm Credit East
https://www.farmcrediteast.com/

The Foodshed Alliance
http://foodshedalliance.org/

Grown in Monmouth
https://www.growninmonmouth.com/

New Jersey Land Link
http://www.njlandlink.org/

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