Q&A with a Regional Navigator: The Farmland Team at Genesee Land Trust


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: Lorna Wright, Liz Sheehan and Amanda Grisa, Farmland Team, Genesee Land Trust

1. Where in New York State do you work?

Located along Lake Ontario and centered on the City of Rochester, Genesee Land Trust serves Monroe and Wayne Counties and portions of adjacent counties. This region is a mix of urban, suburban, and rural communities.

2. What brought you to this work?

Amanda - I grew up on my family's small beef cow farm in the Finger Lakes Region of NY and always helped in our home garden. These experiences stuck with me throughout my undergraduate and graduate education and ultimately inspired me to start a vegetable market farm with my partner. As a small farmer, I quickly saw how difficult it can be for folks to have access to land and how farmland and open space is disappearing in NY - which led me to pursue this position with Genesee Land Trust. 

Liz - I worked in the healthcare sector for most of my professional career, so it was only after experiencing downsizing that I began to look for a different opportunity. Growing up and living in rural areas I have been fortunate to have friends who work in agriculture. I continue to see the impact they have on their local communities as well as challenges they face as they look to the future. I am also a passionate vegetable and flower gardener with a hobby greenhouse. My role with Genesee Land Trust allows me to continue helping others but now in a way that focuses on preserving the agricultural landscape in our region.

Lorna - I came to this work as a land conservationist, but really my work has always focused on listening and connecting with people as stewards of the landscape. People have a deep connection to land, and farmers are the prime example. Every farmer and farmland owner has stories about the land, what it means to them, and why the next generation should also love it as they do. Growing up in rural areas of the country, seeing farms, forests, and beaches make way for development, and losing that passion passed through the generations and community is very sad. Being able to help a single farm family not only prevent that loss, but also share that passion with a new person is a great antidote.

3. In what ways do you typically work with farmers and farmland owners?

Our focus at Genesee Land Trust is to protect farmland with conservation easements. Collectively, we work with landowners and farmers to protect their land through the donation or purchase of development rights, resulting in agricultural conservation easements. These conservation easements permanently ensure that the land will forever be available for agriculture and reduce the cost of the land, making it more affordable for other farmers to purchase. 

Through one-on-one conversations we assist farmers looking for land to identify potential opportunities and connect them with landowners. Some of these lands are protected with a conservation easement by Genesee Land Trust, while others we simply know the landowner is interested in agriculture through conversations and community connections.

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?

Genesee Land Trust is currently working on a conservation easement project that includes the transition of farmland and a business from a retiring landowner to a young farmer. One challenge has been to work through the site planning process. With every conservation easement, we must outline where future structures can be built and think about how a property might be subdivided in the future, if at all. In this case, we needed to incorporate the needs of the current farm family with the desires and potential future needs of the new farmer. Another challenge will be to ensure the timing and financing line up for everyone. Because these projects can take 2-4 years to complete, we strive to maintain clear communication throughout the process to make sure everyone’s goals are being met.

5. What is one piece of advice you have for farmers seeking land or farmland owners hoping to keep their land in farming?

Amanda - Make connections within your community. It can be very difficult for farmland seekers to find the right opportunity, with more relationships (neighbors, local farmers, realtors, service providers) the better your chances are to secure access to land and have support in your agricultural operation. 

Liz - Keep telling your story. Your story can help remind you where your journey started and help you refine and review where you want to go. The conversations you have may lead you to people and resources you may not have anticipated.

Lorna - Be patient and persistent. Every successful land seeker I have witnessed took time, some years, and some luck.

Learn more and contact the Farmland Team at Genesee Land Trust

Published in February 2022

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