Working with towns and their agricultural commissions, New Entry Sustainable Farming Project’s Community Farmland Connections project uses spatial analysis to identify unused viable farmland and encourage landowners to lease their land to a farmer. Through spatial analysis using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and subsequent community education and outreach, this process can be a valuable way to increase the amount of viable farmland that is utilized in a given community. By reaching out to landowners in different areas, community groups can facilitate matches of prime farmland with beginning and existing farmers, in order to increase both new agricultural opportunities and local food for the town, county, and state.
This guide is intended to help municipal groups and/or agricultural non-profits think creatively about how to support new and beginning farmers finding land. It draws on the experience of the New Entry Sustainable Farming Project, a farmer-training program in northeastern Massachusetts, as we sought to find small parcels of farmland for the farmers graduating off of our incubator farm. It outlines step by step the spatial analysis and community process we went through with communities around Massachusetts.