Each month, Maryland FarmLINK membership increases by a couple of dozen new members, most who are looking for farmland. What are they seeking? To begin to understand that question, I reviewed the information submitted by new Maryland FarmLINK members for the last month and took a look at farm seekers who have completed our five minute survey posted on Maryland FarmLINK.
Our sign-in asks new members to describe themselves. While FarmLINK has many resources, most new members are clearly interested in gaining access to farmland and many of those are indicating a desire to change careers such as: “lifelong carpenter who wants to get into farming and agriculture”, “retired US Army. . .looking to start farm”, “professional tree cutter interested in homesteading”, and “contractor by trade, aspiring farmer!” Some are looking to get away from the rat-race, such as “aspiring farmer couple anxious to get out of the ‘burbs” and “classic city to country converter! Farming would be my dream!!!” Still others simply state “New farmer”.
In the last month or so, we have asked those seeking farmland to complete the 5 minute survey so that we at Maryland FarmLINK can help them find a farm to suit their needs. So far, 18 have completed the survey. Of course, the numbers are too few to assume that they are representative of all people seeking Maryland farmland. However, the results give us a snapshot.
For example, 55% are 34 years old or under and 95% do not currently farm or have been farming 10 years or less.
Desired farm operations are quite diversified and include vegetable operations (95%), livestock (61%), and herbs and medicinal (61%). Two-thirds (66%) plan to have organic operations.
When considering the attributes of a property, 66% want a house, 78% want access to water for crops or livestock, and 55% want frontage on a public road. To be successful, most would like assistance with zoning and covenant issues (61%), help with finding the right leasing documents (66%), and access to loan resources (78%).
While not a statistically valid sample size, our Maryland data are consistent with the results of a national study conducted by the USDA and summarized in a previous blog. Like new farmers throughout the country, Maryland farm seekers appear to want to have diversified operations, and most plan to include livestock in their farm plans.
We will be using the surveys to help match up farm seekers with farmland available for sale or lease so we encourage others to complete the survey too. There are many hurdles to establishing the next generation of farmers in Maryland. Access to land is top of the list.