Understanding Soil Conditions on Land Being Considered
Soil conditions are important so consider checking this Soil Survey Information website about any farm lease or purchase that you are considering to see if the parcel information is available. Web Soil Survey (WSS) provides soil data and information produced by the National Cooperative Soil Survey. It is operated by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and provides access to the largest natural resource information system in the world. NRCS has soil maps and data available online for more than 95 percent of the nation’s counties and anticipates having 100 percent in the near future. The site is updated and maintained online as the single authoritative source of soil survey information.
Information from USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service website
Organizations that Help Locate Land to Farm:
Finding land is a real challenge in Massachusetts given its population density, but many groups around the state of Massachusetts are working on addressing finding land for farming at the local/regional level. Inclusion on this list is for information only and does not represent or imply an endorsement by UMass Extension or the University of Massachusetts Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment. The Center is not responsible for any information on any of these sites.
New England Land Link is a statewide farm matching service provided by the New England Small Farms Institute (NESFI), a nonprofit organization in Belchertown, Mass. Check out the “Land” page on the NESFI site that talks about land and includes links to references and studies on the subject.
New England Farmland Matching Service assists qualified beginning farmers and experienced growers to locate suitable land for agricultural production, provided by New Entry Sustainable Food Project, affiliated with Tufts University.
Massachusetts Agriculture CommissionsThere are about 140 Agricultural Commissions (AgComs) within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and there are about 100 towns that have local Right to Farm Bylaws. This website allows you to find out if your town has an Agriculture Commission, to view Right-to-Farm bylaws, AgCom formation bylaws, and more. An AG Commission might have a lead on local farm land for sale. Many members are farmers and may also be able to help with other advice.
Land for Good, Farm Seekers ProgramLand For Good (LFG) is a nonprofit organization offering education and assistance to owners and managers of working lands, entering farmers, and other-land use decision-makers in the six New England states. Our Land Here! program helps seekers acquire a farm or farmland.
Agriculture Preservation Restriction Program (APR), Massachusetts Department of Agriculture Resources (MDAR). The Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR) Program is a voluntary program that pays farmers the difference between the value of their land for agriculture and the value of it for development. In exchange for this payment, the farmer puts a permanent easement on the land to keep it in farming. This provides capital to the farmer. As APR owners age or family circumstances change, farmers are sometimes looking to lease or sell their farms.
Southeastern Massachusetts Agricultural Partnership (SEMAP)SEMAP is a nonprofit “community partnership working to support our region's farms.” Through their Farms Forever program, SEMAP serves current & entering farmers and landowners. Farms Forever is a local, on-the-ground partner helping farms throughout Southeastern Massachusetts take action on transfer planning by providing a first point of inquiry; connecting farmers to partners and resources, and serving as a central point for ongoing follow-up.
Massachusetts Land Trust CoalitionWhile this in not exclusively an agricultural organization, it is a collaboration of land preservation organizations that are interested in open space and farming as a compatible use. This link leads directly to the page on agriculture where there are some links to related sites. It is a good background site and land trusts sometimes have land that they want to lease to farmers. Check for names of trusts to ask about land in your area.
American Farmland Trust – in MassachusettsThe mission of American Farmland Trust is to help farmers protect their land, produce a healthier environment and build successful communities. They also are involved with lands that are in trusts or under conservation restrictions where farmers can lease.
Finding Land to Farmis a publication of ATTRA, National Sustainable Agriculture Assistance Program funded by USDA Rural Development. It offers easy-to-read advice, including cartoons! Remember that this is a national site and some of the information might not be applicable to Massachusetts, but there are many good references and information.
Beginning Farmers is an online resource administered by a student at Michigan State University, who is also a member of the Michigan Organic Food and Farm Alliance. Be sure to check local laws and regulations before following advice from an out-of-state resource. Otherwise this site offers something for every new farmer – even magazines to read! This site IS connected to LandLink to ‘link’ beginning and retiring farmers. Click on Finding Farmland. The site can be found on Facebook and Twitter, too.