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: Christa Núñez, Khuba International/Quarter Acre for the People Project
1. Where in New York State do you work?
I work in Ithaca, New York in Tompkins County, in the beautiful Finger Lakes Region.
2. What brought you to this work?
Motherhood and desire to connect children with opportunities to learn farming, animal husbandry, and develop relationships with plants are what brought me to this work. I grew up in mid-Michigan, in East Lansing, where there are plentiful farms, wetlands, and lakes. I grew up loving nature and wanting to spend as much time outside with animals and plants as I could. I grew up into adulthood with a strong desire to connect more people with those same and better opportunities that I had.
3. What is your area of expertise?
My area of expertise revolves mainly around connecting people with other people. It sounds silly, but I really love getting to know people better, hearing of their dreams and hopes for their agriculture enterprises, and connecting them with the right people who can grow those dreams with them. I also enjoy finding land that some people may overlook as not viable for agriculture and seeing the diamond in the rough; good food can be grown in unique and unusual ways on various types of land.
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?
Right now, I am working with a group of BIPOC farmers who are developing a cooperative entity, as well as designing a farming-oriented intentional community on the land that we [Khuba International] purchased for this group. We are facing challenges with obtaining the funding for the housing development and are currently at the planning stage of the development. There are several stages of planning that we must move through in order to get approval for zoning changes on the land, and the group is also concurrently in development on their governance structure, and the registration and certification of the farm with various entities (Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service, New York State Commercial Uniform Code, and New York State Division of Minority and Women’s Business Development). There are many moving pieces with many collaborators from various sectors of the local economy representing farming, design and architecture, engineering, granting foundations, government, housing, community activism, academia, and food systems development. The farmers [meet weekly with one another?] and with the developers and other collaborators, and are busy submitting grant applications. It is deeply challenging and extremely rewarding work.
5. What is one piece of advice you have for farmers seeking land or farmland owners hoping to keep their land in farming?
My advice to farmers seeking land is to find partners to share the workload and decision-making burden. Also, think outside the box when it comes to what kind of land you think you want. Don’t be married to a single idea.
Similarly, my advice to farmland owners hoping to keep their land in farming is to develop relationships with partners who are committed to equity in landholding paradigms, and to ecological and farmland protection with whom you can share the burdens of the workload and decision-making. Think outside the box about who you want to work with. It’s not always going to be someone you already know or are connected with in some way. Reach out consistently beyond your circle and connect with new people via commonalities in yours and their visioning.