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Access to Grazing: Leased Land Ideas and Issues

Greenhorns DocumentaryOur Land is a documentary created by The Greenhorns, a grassroots, non-profit organization of young farmers and collaborators.  The documentary is part of their mission to recruit, promote and support a new generation of young farmers.  It shares the stories and voices of young farmers who are getting started in the business. On Pasture readers might be most interested in part 4, Access to Grazing Land (9 minutes, embedded below for your viewing pleasure).  It looks at the efforts of two couples to carve out farms of their own starting with small rented parcels.

Erica and Joel raise pastured poultry, beef and free-range eggs on land they were offered by a food organization.  In return for using the land, they work 40 hours a week for the land-owner.   While they love the work, growing food for their community and improving the land with organic grazing, they express their frustration with the limited authority they’re given over the land they’re working.  Joel hopes that their pilot project on 15 acres will show they can do a good job, and that then they’ll be given the rest of the 500 acres to manage.  In the meantime, the existing farm manager continues to use herbicides that threaten the organic status of the young couple’s products.

Adam Gaska, who has 6 separate parcels in the Mendocino Valley of California describes the issue well saying that young farmers are trying to figure out the social logistics and to create equitable arrangement so the landowner feels like they’re getting something out of it while at the same time the farmer can make a living.  As Erica notes “It’s great to socially aware and socially responsible, but you need to be able to support yourself.”

Joel says it’s more challenging than he ever thought it would be, but hopes that with time they’ll be able to earn the trust of landowners so their work becomes easier.

This is a great look at the ideas that inspired these young farmers to get started and the frustrations they’re facing.  What we’d like to add to the mix are ideas that might help them set up lease agreements for these small parcels to reduce their frustrations.  One resource is Meg Grzeskiewicz’s series on leasing pasture, published in on pasture last summer.  Do you have additional thoughts our resources that have worked for you or for other farmers you know.  Share your ideas below!

Here’s the link if you’re on a tablet:  OUR LAND Episode 4: Access to Grazing from The Greenhorns on Vimeo.


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