Partnering with the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, we are holding a series of meetings with land trusts and other stakeholders to work on improving land access for New Jersey farmers. Our group met with David Haight, New York State Director of American Farmland Trust, to discuss the very successful Hudson Valley Farmlink Network, which has put 75 farmers on land in its first 18 months. Using an online database/website, the Hudson Valley Farmlink Network has a partnership of 15 organizations that trains, networks and provides one-on-one assistance to land owners and farmers to help them through the land-linking process.

New Jersey, thanks to the State Agriculture Development Committee (SADC) and the Northeast Organic Farming Association of NJ (NOFA-NJ), has a newly revamped online database/website NJ Land Link where land owners and farmers can go to investigate possible connections. However, NJ stakeholders agree that the website, while a great start, is not enough to produce desired land-linking results, and we are working with the SADC on next steps: collaboratively create marketing plan for the NJ LandLink program and identify ways to improve and update the online component of the program. We are also working on the possibility of replicating here in New Jersey the partnership model that the Hudson Valley Farmlink Network has, as David Haight credits the assistance provided by the 15 organizations as the most critical component to the Hudson Valley’s success in getting farmers on land. We are seeking funding to replicate the Hudson Valley program here in NJ.

In addition, the Foodshed Alliance is looking to establish and manage an incubator farm in northern New Jersey where three to five beginning farmers can work over three years in a supportive and affordable agricultural environment as they hone not only their farming skills, but their business and marketing skills as well. Through this incubator farm, we would offer land, technical assistance and equipment for beginning farmers during the critical years of start-up.

Corey Tierney, Administrator of the Warren County Department of Land Preservation, is working with us to look at appropriate parklands and preserved farmland that may be available for use as an incubator farm. We are also meeting with the SADC to discuss available land parcels that they have preserved. Both entities have indicated they may be able to acquire and preserve parcels for this purpose. Under these scenarios, the governmental agency would retain ownership of the land and the Foodshed Alliance would be responsible for managing the incubator program, including recruiting, selecting and educating the farmers. Once farmers go through the incubator farm program, they can use the NJ Farmlink program to find land. The Foodshed Alliance is looking for financial support for its incubator farm program.