Want Land? Tell Us About It!

Posted by dennisjdennis on July 12, 2013 2 Comments

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Dennis J. Dennis is a Masters Candidate at UBC Land & Food Systems. We are so excited about the farmland demand survey that Dennis is working on! Please fill out the survey and help us get a better grasp of who is looking for land.

I am carrying out a survey on barriers faced by beginning and young farmers and on farmland access arrangements. The survey is part of my master’s thesis research on land access issues and on the potential for alternative land tenure models (ex. community farms, cooperatives, farmland trusts) to address these challenges.  I have been working in conjunction with the Community Farms Program and Young Agrarians and greatly appreciate their support.

The survey can be completed by all Young Agrarians!  Whether you are a current farmer with land access, a prospective farmer seeking land access, a young farmer, an experienced farmer, or a non-farming supporter –  this survey is for you!

Ready to get started? Click here to complete the online survey. It takes about 25 minutes for farmers and prospective farmers, and about 10 minutes for farm supporters.

Need some background info on why this survey research is being done?  Please read on.

Food related initiatives have been growing across the province, food policies are being put in place in more and more municipalities, food security has become a component of government health mandates, and there is growing interest in eating locally and ecologically.

Yet our most fertile farmland is continuing to be lost to urban expansion and economic development, much of the farmland we do have is underutilized or inaccessible to farmers, farm profitability remains low, and the number of young farmers has been steadily declining in BC and across Canada.

The problems around land can be broken into three main challenges.  The first being the actual loss of land to development or the reduction in the capability of our land base occurring through the exclusion of prime land from the Agricultural Land Reserve.

The second is that a lot of the land that we do have is not accessible to farms or the access is insecure (short term leases).  There is a large amount of underutilized farmland in BC – owned by people seeking tax breaks on rural estates or by speculators, which prohibits farmers from securely accessing that land.  In many cases, land that is available is so costly that farmers cannot purchase it and even if they can get a loan the profit margins of farming are often so low that it could take a lifetime to pay off the cost of the land.  The graph below shows the trend towards declining farmland ownership and increasing farmland leasing that is occurring in the province.

Graph based on Statistic Canada data illustrating the trend towards increased renting amongst farmers in BC.

The third problem is that the number of young farmers are declining and as the American Farmland Trust says “It’s not farmland without farmers.”  There is an aging farm population with a decline in intergenerational transfers which is resulting in the dual problems of outgoing farmers selling their land because there is no one to take over the farm and loss of the inter-generational transfer of knowledge.  Furthermore there is evidence that many new young farmers are coming from non-farming backgrounds, meaning no family land to inherit, and with this trend land access for young farmers becomes even more of an issue.

Declining Young Farmers

Agricultural land that is actively and ecologically farmed, and farmers that can make a fair livelihood on the land, are foundational to regional food production and to regional food security. The survey I have developed will gather information on the numbers of people in this network actively seeking land, on the barriers to farm establishment, on the resources being used, on resource needs, and on the type of land access arrangements that are being used or sought by farmers. The questions for non-farming folks seek information on the type of support and the motivations for support provided. The ultimate goal of my research is to inform further program development and to advocate for policies that support the preservation of farmland and the successful establishment of farmers on the land.  All findings will be made publicly available through the Young Agrarians network.

Click here to complete the survey.

It takes about 25 minutes for farmers and prospective farmers, and about 10 minutes for farm supporters.

Please feel free to contact me regarding the research: dennis.jess.dennis at gmail.com

Below are a couple photos of myself so you can put a face to the name. Look forward to seeing and meeting people at the next potluck I can make it to!

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