When Christine and Fabio Ritmo set out to look for land to build a vegetable farm of their own, they knew exactly where they wanted to be. Sharing the same dream of farming as both a career and lifestyle choice, they were looking for farmland within 30 minutes of Albany, New York to be close to Capital Region markets and their families.
Both graduates of the farmer training program at the University of Vermont with farm internships under their belt, Christine and Fabio found their way to the Hudson Valley Farmlink Network’s farmland finder website in 2015 through a simple Google search. They posted and maintained a Farm Seeker profile over the course of three years while searching for potential properties that fit their criteria.
During that time, Christine and Fabio found many potential matches that moved forward to direct conversations with the landowners, but ultimately most did not work out because the potential arrangements didn’t fit their needs. Christine and Fabio always kept their profile on the farmland finder website and eventually met Cecilia and Gabriel, a couple in Stillwater, New York who were looking to lease their land to a farmer. The landowners had always wanted to live on a farm but didn’t have the time or the skills to build it themselves – something that the Ritmos were looking to do the work to create. A year after meeting through the website and signing a lease agreement, Christine and Fabio have completed their first season on Nimble Roots Farm and are “seeing [their] goals and dreams realized decades sooner, with the help of Gabriel and Cecilia”.
Farm property listings and search options on the farmland finder website were the most helpful for Christine and Fabio, both for learning what was available in their target area and for bringing like-minded people together to achieve their common goals. They also found information about Hudson Valley Farmlink Network partner organizations and microgrant opportunities through the site. When talking about the value of the Hudson Valley Farmlink Network’s farmland finder site in their search for land, Christine and Fabio said: “Without the farmland finder site, we wouldn’t be in the position we’re in today. Even though there are new farmer resources, it can still be daunting to seek out those resources. The site is very user friendly and opens the door to unique relationships that you don’t think of.”
When reflecting on their farmland access journey, Christine and Fabio said “our biggest takeaway and best piece of advice for other land seekers is that if a listing sparks your interest, look into it. Every lead is an opportunity. A couple of the folks we had communicated with through Hudson Valley Farmland Finder we’ve actually met or connected with through other ag-related events or organizations (National Young Farmers Coalition). Our Stillwater property had a very simple listing, nothing that indicated how flexible and open the owners were/are to the type of relationship that we’ve managed to build.”
The landowners Christine and Fabio have been leasing from recently decided to relocate to a region further south in the Hudson Valley, putting Christine and Fabio into an uncertain future once again. However, due to the strength of the relationship they were able to build after finding their match on the farmland finder website, the landowners invited Christine and Fabio to join them. The Ritmos accepted the offer and both couples have been meeting regularly to hone their property search – including using the farmland finder website once again!
This story originally appeared on HudsonValleyFarmlandFinder.org. The Hudson Valley Farmlink Network is a partnership of 15 organizations working to ensure the availability of farmland in the Hudson Valley for the farmers of today and tomorrow. Coordinated by American Farmland Trust, the network offers a Hudson Valley Farmland Finder website, training and networking events, and one-on-one assistance for farmers and landowners. The Hudson Valley Farmlink Network has received primary funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. Additional funding has also been provided by the Environmental Protection Fund and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation as well as the members of American Farmland Trust.