Projects > Sustainability and Equity in the Massachusetts Food System: A Progress Report

Land for Good

Image courtesy of Emelia Aiken-Hafner

Succession planning to keep farms in farming

Many farmers nearing retirement age haven’t made plans for what will happen to their farm after they stop farming, and many don’t have family members who are interested in continuing to farm. To help farmers through the complicated and time-consuming process of succession planning, Land For Good (LFG) offers its Farm Succession School in its suite of services to transitioning farmers. “When farmers have transfer plans, it increases the likelihood their farms will stay in farming,” says Jason Silverman, LFG’s Massachusetts field agent.

Farmers participating in the Farm Succession School attend three full-day classes over three months to learn about retirement and estate planning, taxes, legal structures, and bringing on a successor. Between classes, they complete homework such as calculating retirement budgets or drafting a legacy letter for family. Farmers leave with a completed or near-complete plan. “This school helps farm families get their ducks in a row and takes the stress off. Farmers can then transition out of active farm management when they’re ready,” says Jason. The land and operations can be passed on to family or others who will keep the farm in active agriculture.

There is a modest fee to participate, and graduates receive a rebate to spend on additional advising. Massachusetts farmers are also eligible for additional support for technical assistance on their succession plan from the MA Department of Agricultural Resources, including one-on-one follow-up assistance from LFG. The school has been held six times throughout New England in collaboration with Farm Credit East, including once in Massachusetts.

A number of other tools are available for Massachusetts farmers and farmland owners focusing on retirement, transfer, and succession. The Farm Transfer Network of New England offers an online listing of service providers who can assist with aspects of farm transfer, as well as education materials for both farmers and service providers. The New England Farmland Finder website helps farm seekers and farm property owners to find each other; farm families and landowners can sign up at no cost to list their property for sale or lease. Additionally, LFG often partners with land trusts and other service providers around the state on farm transfer and succession workshops, presentations, and clinics.

Land - Recommendation 3.9: Help and incentivize farmers and farmland owners to keep their land in farming as it transfers out of their ownership.