Its not often that a young farmer reads these words, “60 Acres available for long-term affordable lease opportunities. As the owners of the land, we wish to transition it to organic production and create a community of farmers who can support each other and produce high-quality, organic food for the area,” wrote Steve Gambino owner of Villa Milagro Vineyards, Finesville, NJ in the NOFA classified section. “We wish to parcel out 1-5 acres to a series of farmers who would not otherwise be able to purchase land,” he added.
Its true, one of the toughest challenges to acting on that seductive dream to abandon the fluorescent lights of the office cubicle and head for the blue skies and fresh veggies of farm life, is actually finding the land to farm. According to a recent survey of more than 1,000 young U.S. farmers, conducted by the National Young Farmers Coalition, 65% of those surveyed reported that access to land was their biggest challenge.
With land prices soaring and unpreserved farmland being snapped up by developers, it’s often years before a new farmer finds a patch of ground to call their own. While apprenticing on a farm is a great way to learn the ropes, leasing land allows farmers to test the waters on their own before making a long term commitment. Leasing is also an excellent option for established farmers interested in relocating or expanding their yield.
NOFA NJ and the New Jersey State Agricultural Development Committee (SADC) created a number of useful resources for farmers and landowners. These include a guidebook entitled Leasing Farmland in New Jersey, A Guide For Landowners and Farmers. The 42 page guide includes sample leases and in-depth information about types of leases available. In addition to the guide, NOFA NJ and SADC created worksheets that walk farmers and landowners through a series of questions and goal statements to help them create leases that best match their individual needs and desires for the land.
For those interested in making their farm dreams a reality or expanding their yields, Villa Milagro just may be the spot. According to their website, “Sitting on the cliffs above the Delaware River, Villa Milagro Vineyards is ‘picture perfect’ with views of four counties in two states and of the convergence point of the Delaware and Musconetcong Rivers. Across the river from historic Bucks County, PA, the vineyard is a scenic drive of less than two hours from both New York and Philadelphia.”