“We’re seeing more and more people encroach on those areas who want second homes, more space, and connection with nature, and [they] have zero ties to the communities,” [Gabriela Peyeyra, co-director, Land Network, Northeast Farmers of Color Land Trust] said.
…“COVID was the canary in the coal mine for land access,” said NEFOC’s [Stephanie] Morningstar. “We saw this mass exodus of folks buying up land, sight unseen, in rural areas within a few hours drive from a major city. And what that did was basically take away any hope from folks like us, who were barely able to meet the financial requirements for buying land before that.”
As a result, farmers on the margins continue to rely on rented farmland, which often prevents them from making investments or planning very far into the future. Land owners, on the other hand, often welcome farmers as renters because maintaining the land in agricultural use gives them a tax break in every state. Ensuring that someone is actively farming the land can also be an obligation when land is protected by an agricultural conservation easement, which comes with a tax reduction and has become more common in rural areas in recent years.
Another consequence is that more young and marginalized farmers could be pushed out of the farming business entirely. In a 2017 report, the National Young Farmers Coalition found that securing access to farmland was the most significant challenge facing young farmers (those under 40), based on a survey of 3,517 aspiring, current, and former farmers. The respondents also cited this as the most common reason for both leaving and not beginning farming [Greta Moran, “Beginning Farmers, Farmers of Color Outbid as Farmland Prices Soar,” Civil Eats, 2022.01.03].
Maybe aspiring farmers of youth and color could move to South Dakota, which, according to USDA data, still has the ninth-cheapest farmland in the country, despite tying with California for the eighth-highest percentage increase in farm real estate value from 2020 to 2021:
Farmland is a third cheaper in South Dakota than in New York and almost three-fifths cheaper than in Minnesota. But aspiring farmers can get more land for their money in Oklahoma, Kansas, North Dakota, Colorado, Nevada, Montana, Wyoming, and New Mexico… and I’d guess that at least half of those states offer longer growing seasons and better access to consumers eager to buy the fruits and vegetables of small-scale local agriculture.