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Network aims to help transfer farmland, expand conservation practices

The Great Lakes Farm Navigator Network looks to support farm families in four states.

Jennifer Kiel, Editor, Michigan Farmer and Ohio Farmer

March 24, 2023

2 Min Read
view at an overlook at the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive
NETWORK: The Great Lakes Farm Navigator Network is designed to help farmland owners transfer their land across generations and connect landowners with new farmers looking for land, while expanding conservation practices. RiverNorthPhotography/Getty Images

With many farmland owners in the Great Lakes region looking to transfer their farms in the next 15 years, American Farmland Trust has set a goal of aiding this effort while reaching 150 farmers and bringing an additional 75,000 acres of conservation practices onto the land by the end of 2026.

American Farmland Trust is creating a training and networking program for Navigator organizations, which will provide services to help farmland owners transfer their land across generations and connect landowners with new farmers looking for land, while expanding conservation practices, including those that protect the ecological health of the Great Lakes.

The Great Lakes Farm Navigator Network is supported by the Great Lakes Protection Fund. Staff from 16 organizations across New York, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin will receive the training over the next three years to tailor support to farmers and farmland owners using an innovative, holistic approach that keeps farmland in production and expands conservation practices, according to AFT, which is a national organization based out of Maryland.

“Acquiring farmland and managing it well is a complicated process,” says Ashley Brucker, American Farmland Trust deputy director of agriculture conservation innovations. “We are grateful for the partnership with the Great Lakes Protection Fund to invest in these Navigators to support farmers and streamline access to resources. We expect significant improvement in Great Lakes water quality as farmers add new conservation practices on their land.” 

Support and tools

AFT says women, people of color and LGBTQIA+ people are increasingly becoming the new generation of farmers and farmland owners, despite being historically denied access to land and state and federal resources.

The Navigator Network, according to the organization, aims to help close that gap and give new generations of farm families the support and tools needed to steward the land into the future and improve water quality in the Great Lakes region. 

“There’s no better time for farmers to commit to new practices than when they take on new land,” adds Steve Cole, vice president of programs, Great Lakes Protection Fund.

The Great Lakes Navigator Network will advise, train and support:  

  • women farmers and landowners to access land and develop and implement conservation or farm transfer plans   

  • senior farmers and landowners to implement conservation options, including agricultural conservation easements, in their farm transfer planning

  • beginning farmers, particularly those underserved, to secure land with a commitment to conservation tied to their personal and business goals

Learn more at farmland.org.

Read more about:

Farm Succession

About the Author(s)

Jennifer Kiel

Editor, Michigan Farmer and Ohio Farmer

While Jennifer is not a farmer and did not grow up on a farm, "I think you'd be hard pressed to find someone with more appreciation for the people who grow our food and fiber, live the lifestyles and practice the morals that bind many farm families," she says.

Before taking over as editor of Michigan Farmer in 2003, she served three years as the manager of communications and development for the American Farmland Trust Central Great Lakes Regional Office in Michigan and as director of communications with Michigan Agri-Business Association. Previously, she was the communications manager at Michigan Farm Bureau's state headquarters. She also lists 10 years of experience at six different daily and weekly Michigan newspapers on her impressive resume.

Jennifer lives in St. Johns with her two daughters, Elizabeth, 19, and Emily 16.

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