NEW Position Open to Help Match Farmers with Farmland in Western North Carolina

This farm isn't for sale; this was just a pretty picture in my file!

Farm and Forest Land Access Service Coordinator:  An individual is needed in the Western North Carolina region to provide networking capacity and expertise in farmland information to fill the gap between owners of farm and forest land and promising farmers without access to land.  A partnership of NC State University, the NC Cooperative Extension Service, the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, Organic Growers School, Mountain Valleys Resource Conservation and Development, regional Soil and Water Conservation Districts, and the Appalachian Sustainable Agricultural Project has formed with the mission of developing an efficient network and expertise in connecting  promising landless farmers with farmland.

Funding for a half-time, 30 to 36 month position has been secured through the Rural Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge "Growing our Agricultural Sector" Project – part of the GroWNC Implementation ProjectDr. Jeanine Davis, Associate Professor and Extension Specialist in the Department of Horticultural Science with NC State University is the Principal Investigator related to the Farmland Access Initiative portion of the larger GroWNC Project.  Funding for the Farmland Access Service Position will be provided through NC State University.  An office space for the Farmland Access Service Position will be provided by the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy in downtown Asheville, NC.

Qualifications:   Strong interpersonal and facilitation skills; a large amount of creativity; self reliance; ability to take initiative; ability to effectively manage multiple tasks; ability to work independently and in project teams; positive attitude and energy; team spirit; and good communication skills. Minimum of one year of experience coordinating workshops, community meetings, and other such events. Minimum of an undergraduate degree is required. Strong computer skills and proficiency with Word, Powerpoint, and Excel required. Familiarity with local and regional food systems and an existing network of relationships within the agricultural community is preferred. Must be able to work well with all types of agricultural producers and staff of agricultural support organizations.  Several years experience with land conservation and agricultural support organizations is a plus, as well as working with a coalition.

Compensation: This is a half-time position (20 hours per week). Compensation will be commensurate with experience up to $20,000 per year. Paid sick days, annual leave days, and holidays provided, but no health insurance or retirement benefits.

Position Description:
Challenges:  Many farmers in our region are reaching retirement age, and some do not have plans for transitioning their farm or forest land and keeping it in production. Also, there are other landowners with farm and forest land that is currently out of production.  At the same time, there is a growing number of farmers, some beginning farmers, that are finding it difficult to access farmland to start or maintain their farming operations. This is due to multiple factors that may include the cost of farmland, difficulty in connecting with those that own farmland, and lack of knowledge about how to search for farmland.  This position grew out of a project several of us on this team were involved in several years ago called the Farm Prosperity Project.

Opportunities:  Finding solutions to bridge the gap between retiring farmers and other landowners with farmers in need of access to land.  Land access opportunities can include:
• lease agreements with private landowners
• lease agreement at incubator farms
• lease-to-buy situations with retiring farmers
• lease with option to purchase small portions of land in order to build a house or place to live next to the farm or forestland
• donation / bargain sale to land trust to re-sell at agricultural value
• aspiring farmer purchases land and recoups portion of cost through sale of development rights

Mission:  Create opportunities to connect landowners that have available farmland with farmers in need of access to farmland.

1.  Partner Coordination
• Coordinate relationships and information between participating partners
• Work with partners to develop relationships with retiring farmers and landowners
• Work with partners to develop relationships with farmers
• Receive direction and insight from a steering committee of partners
• Serve as the main contact to receive and distribute land access inquiries

2.  Landowner Relationship Development – Outreach and Education
• Hold events (workshops, community meetings, dinners, etc.) to develop relationships with landowners, land seekers, and community leaders
• Inform retiring farmers and landowners about this program (what it is, what it means, what the problems are, why they would want to do it, what it would do for agriculture & the community)
• Educate retiring farmers about farm transition options / estate planning
• Educate landowners about the skilled farmers that are out there and a vetting process that they would have to go through to gain access to land
• Maintain information on potential landowners and land that may be available

3.  Farmer Relationship Development
• Maintain information on farmers seeking land
• Create qualification standards and application process that aspiring farmers must meet to qualify for the program (could be various levels for leasing vs. buying land)
• Build relationships with aspiring farmers and inform them about the program

4.  Making Connections
• Coordinate events to have landowners and farmland seekers meet and connect
• Facilitate connections between landowners and  land seekers; perhaps through a searchable online database
• Help facilitate any lease agreements
• Refer potential land transactions or easements to land trust / Soil & Water district
• Generate useful materials such as template lease agreements, sample contracts,  etc.

How to Apply:  To apply for this position, you must go through the North Carolina State University Job Application Site.  This is an on-line process where you create an account and fill out an application and upload your CV (resume), a cover letter, and contact information for three references.  Here is the link to apply for this position.  This position will remain open until we find the appropriate individual to fill it.

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