5 Questions with a Regional Navigator
Farmland for a New Generation New York Regional Navigators provide training and on-the-ground customized support for farmers and landowners in regions throughout New York.
Featured Regional Navigator: Janet Britt, Easement Steward, Agricultural Stewardship Association
1.Where in New York State do you work?
I work in ASA’s service area - Rensselaer and Washington counties in eastern NY.
2. What brought you to this work? What is your connection to agriculture?
I grew up in the Finger Lakes region and my father was a part-time farmer. I studied plant science at Cornell and apprenticed with a British horticulturist after graduation. I eventually ran my own CSA farm for 17 years prior to working at ASA. I have always lived in rural areas and love working with farmers.
3. What is your area of expertise? In what ways do you typically work with farmers and farmland owners?
Our primary mission at ASA is to help farmers and landowners who want to conserve their land with a conservation easement. My role in that process is to create a baseline report documenting conditions on the property at the time the easement is made and maintaining relationships with the easement property owner through regular site visits. Conservation Easements are one of the tools that can help with farm transition as well as keeping land affordable for new farmers.
In my land access work, I think of myself as a matchmaker. I typically help landowners post their profiles on the farmland finder websites and create maps to attach to the profile. I also regularly review the farm seeker listings and suggest potential matches with available land in our area. Each year I try to organize opportunities for farm seekers to visit farm properties, meet the farmer/landowner, and get acquainted with our rural community. Another strength is in identifying and connecting people to resources in our area to help with legal, business and financial planning, as well as advice on soils and cropping. I have also worked directly with landowners to help them evaluate their property in terms of possible agricultural use and have organized workshops bringing in experts on land assessment. We have also sponsored workshops on creating a good agricultural lease, agricultural tax assessment, and estate and transition planning. I also have a strong interest in helping with farm viability by bringing diverse speakers on land use and alternative enterprises.
4. Can you give an example of one farmer or farmland owner you are currently working with, the challenges they are facing, and how you are helping them work through those challenges?
We recently met with a landowner who is responsible for several parcels of farmland. The land was his family’s dairy farm while he was growing up but has been rented out to farmers in the area for many years and no one in the family is interested in farming in the future. At the same time, the family has emotional ties to at least part of the property and are not ready to sell it entirely. Since there are several discontiguous parcels, we talked about the possibility of leasing two of the parcels which do not have the emotional ties, with the possibility of a new farmer being able to purchase the parcels eventually. Another issue is that the landowner has leased some acreage to a community solar company which will begin construction in the near future. This adds a complication but could also serve as a future income stream which could make the land affordable to a new farmer. Other complications include making sure that a lease or sale to a new farmer will not adversely affect farmers who have used the land in the past. We will work with the landowner to help clarify his goals in making the land available for a new farmer, identify which parcel(s) he wants to make available and when, clarify appropriate enterprises for the parcels, and then eventually help create a farm profile and identify likely farmer matches.
5. What is one piece of advice you have for farmers seeking land or farmland owners hoping to keep their land in farming?
For farmers seeking land, get as much experience working on other farms as you can. For landowners, be clear about any restrictions or requirements you have for leasing land.
Published in December 2020