Another very juicy -- and challenging, and often controversial -- topic!
To start, it feels important to say that although Jay may have decided that the options he listed are not for him, many in his list have worked, and are still working, for many people. The point that he does make clear, and that I hope everyone will read loud and clear, is that not all options will work for everyone, in every situation. I'm a bit wary of blanket statements that say "this doesn't work" without going into details, because what doesn't work for some might well work for others, in just the same way that what does work for some might not work for others... it all really depends on what you're trying to do, how, why, and with what, right?
As I'll probably say in many different threads in many different ways over the course of this Q&A, my favorite strategy for finding something that will be a good fit for you... whether it's a land agreement, investment dollars, a breed of chickens, a business partner, a life partner, anything... is to do the following:
1. Get REALLY CLEAR on your own values, goals, timeline, constraints, connections, predilections, etc etc etc. Don't skimp on this step! It's the most important one, as you can get very distracted during the next step...
2. Do your research and find out what is actually available where you are, or at least applicable.
3. Narrow down your list of options and ask anyone who will talk to you what their experience has been with those options.
4. Talk to the people you'd be partnering with. See if you "click." Listen closely to what they are saying their values and needs are.
5. Negotiate an agreement that comes as close as possible to meeting everyone's needs.
6. Honor the agreement. If something's not working, talk about it, and renegotiate.
Often, as Jay points out, there just isn't a good match. Which is a bummer, particularly as this issue of getting onto land is, as he also points out, a huge crux in the sustainable food movement in general, particularly in the Ag of the Middle
zone where you're bigger than a market garden but don't want to be beholden to market fluctuations in price / lack of brand loyalty / etc etc inherent in trying to sell to an undifferentiated commodity market.
SO... where else to go for resources and advice? Here are some amazing organizations who are making it their mission to address these issues (in the US):
The Agrarian Trust
, here's a glimpse of what they're up to:
--Create and promote regionally-appropriate models that conserve productive farmland dedicated to sustainable agriculture, and make the land available to next-generation producers.
--Expand and enhance the financial, legal, and technical assistance networks that are central to the political and economic success of the next generation of American agrarians;
--Facilitate and develop the social and intellectual networks required to overcome the present cultural economy of industrial agriculture.
--Replicate successful models, scale up the rate of farmland succession.
On the homepage of their Resource Library
, CA Farmlink has some really helpful Fact Sheets that break down some of the most common lease models that they've seen work, each including Benefits, Considerations, and tips for Preparing to do each of the following:
--Cash Lease from Government and Non-Profit Organization
--Crop Share Lease
They also recently released a new version of a publication that covers a whole bunch of other ways for farmers (beginning and/or established to get on land, but I can't find it... I will make a phone call to see if/how it is currently available.
is another organization that has done some really innovative work around getting farmers on land. Yes it's true, easements are not always available, and their work shows that they can be very helpful in keeping farmland affordable for farming! The link above will take you to their Resources for Farmers, which include model documents and several publications on the topics of this thread.
Hope these help!
P.S. An aside re Detroit's urban ag situation, since Kim brought it up: there is enormous controversy surrounding what's happening there, from a social justice perspective... here's a video on the subject featuring my fellow Food & Community Fellow Malik Yakiniof Detroit Black Food Security Network: Future Cities video
. And a 2012 Huffington Post article
from Eric Holt Gimenez,
Executive Director, Food First/Institute for Food and Development Policy.