Q&A with a Regional Navigator: Rhiannon Wright

Rhiannon Headshot

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: Rhiannon Wright, Program Coordinator, Center for Agricultural Development and Entrepreneurship (CADE)

1. Where in New York State do you work?

CADE’s land access work is centered around the west edge of the Catskills: Delaware, Schoharie, and Otsego counties.

All of CADE’s virtual programming, including our workshops, online courses and 1:1 consulting is available across the state! 

2. What brought you to this work?

Managing a farmer’s market in Bucks County PA was my first time being in real relationship with farmers – it helped me to understand the basic joys and struggles of farming. The young farmers at my market who didn’t come from farming families rarely owned their farms – more than once I witnessed the fallout from insecure leases and fickle landlords, and the incredible rallying potential of farmers despite never-ending setbacks.

I loved my market job and could have happily stayed in the area long term, but my partner and I wanted to start a tree nursery, and the price of land was so out of reach that we made a plan to relocate to New York. We’re now settled in Jefferson, and are selling bare root fruit and nut trees.

It feels like I just moved up river (from the bottom of the Delaware watershed to the headwaters!), and am so pleased to work with beginning farmers like myself on land access, business development and marketing with CADE.

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

Our main goal around land access is to support matchmaking between beginning farmers and landowners in our region. We help folks create and improve their profiles on the NY Farmland Finder website, and can provide support to farmers such as discussing a property’s appropriateness for ag enterprises, providing referrals to lending/funding opportunities, and ensuring access to capital. We’re proud to be able to provide “A-Z” business development services – if a client comes to us looking for help securing land, but also needs to finish their business plan, we can help with that too.

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?

I’ve recently worked with multiple farmers who are relocating to NY from out of state. As someone who did the same less than a year ago, I know all too well the struggles of searching for land online, especially in the current market. I get to be the person I wish I had “on the ground” – someone to help discern details you can’t see on Zillow - what’s traffic like on that road? Is the closest farmers market a busy one? Is the grocery store in town decent? Farmers don’t just need to know that the soils are suitable, they need to know what the local market opportunities are, whether or not they’ll be able to find affordable health care close by, if the local bar is friendly to newcomers, etc.

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

I hope that more landowners will consider leasing their land and equipment to beginning farmers – the value of farmland in our region has greatly outpaced the income associated with farming, to the point where buying an active “working farm” is impossible for those without intergenerational wealth or nonfarming income in our region.

This reality is unjust, and so I encourage landowners to consider leasing with a framework of justice – not looking for a return on investment, but contributing to a solidarity economy through long-term, low-cost leasing.

Learn more and contact Regional Navigator Rhiannon Wright of CADE

Published in August 2022

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