By Matt Grimley
Between economic, legal, regional and personal circumstances, no two farmers will make the same decisions about how to keep their farms productive into the future. Noted here are just a few paths to preserving the farming tradition. If you’re looking for more information, start at your local cooperative extension office.
Fostering land conservation, farm profitability and stewardship: Scores of programs at the state and national levels exist to assist the productivity and well-being of farms. For example, federally, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program pays up to 50 percent of the cost for farmers to implement sustainable practices and structures on farmland; and in southwest North Carolina, the nonprofit Mill Spring Agricultural Center provides trainings and a networking hub for Polk County farmers.
Looking into estate planning: Armed with attorneys and accountants, many farmers decide how to pass on the farm to family members and others through avenues including trusts, wills and gifts. The process of estate planning is long and complicated, but necessary to preserve a family’s ownership and legacy.
Leasing to younger farmers and other tenure options: Many times, if a farm becomes too large to manage or if extra income is needed, a farmer can be found to rent a section of the land. The agreements between a landowner and farmer can take many forms: short- and long-term leases, lease-to-own purchase agreements, and partnerships. Along with different types of internships, these arrangements can sometimes lead to more permanent positions for the beginning farmer and better ensure a farm’s future.
Joining or forming voluntary agricultural districts: Voluntary agricultural district programs allow farmers to form areas where commercial agriculture is encouraged and protected. It varies between localities, but typically a farmer receives community benefits in return for restricting development on the land for a 10-year period, such as protection from nuisance suits from non-agricultural neighbors.