(Ohio News Connection) The cost of farmland has skyrocketed, putting the dream of working the land out of reach for many young farmers.
In Ohio, land transfers between retiring landowners and aspiring farmers are seen as a solution to keep land affordable and out of the hands of developers.
Sharon Maish and her husband own Meadow Farm and Preserve in Fayette County. She explained in order to acquire the 30-acre property from a retiring farm couple they knew personally, they worked out a seller-financed loan.
"It's so hard for older farmers to figure out how to get their farms out there," Maish observed. "They don't understand social media, they don't understand how to find small farmers, but there's so many of them out there, that'd be willing to do something like we did."
Maish added they have three years to secure a regular loan or pay the remaining amount for the property from their own funds. In the meantime, the farm's previous owners function as the mortgage lender, and she and her husband will make interest-only payments to them.
Maish pointed to HeartlandFarmLink.org, a free land-linking service as resource for both farm seekers and farm owners.
Kelly Cabral, farmland specialist for the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, Kelly Cabral explained more than 40 percent of agricultural land will be in transition over the next decade. Conventional financing requirements will leave many young farmers unable to put down roots.
"Almost half of all of our land where we grow food will be in transition in the next fifteen years," Cabral pointed out. "To me, that's like a call to action. It affects not only our farmers and their livelihoods, but it also affects the cost of food that we're paying. "
Maish hopes to raise awareness about land transfers among beginning and aspiring farm families.
"They're young couples with children and, and they want to have a small homestead or a farm, and they just can't find it, and there's so much land out there," Maish noted.
Ohio has more than 30,000 beginning farmers, the sixth-highest number in the nation, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Statistics Service.