PA Farm Link Connects Farmers and Landowners
We recently interviewed Marlene Kaltenbach with PA Farm Link. PA Farm Link is a non-profit organization with a mission to link farmers to the future. During the interview, Marlene discussed the organization and its land-linking database.
First, could you tell our listeners about PA Farm Link, including what resources and services you provide to Pennsylvania agriculture?
PA Farm Link is a nonprofit organization that was started in 1996. This year we're celebrating our 25th anniversary of supporting and assisting Pennsylvania farmers.
So what do we have to offer? We basically have two main areas that we predominantly work in. One is farm succession and transition, where we work with a farm family to help them through the process of transitioning farm business to the next generation of farmers. All of our staff have completed farm facilitation training, and we all have an agriculture background.
The second focus is what we're going to be talking about today - linking farm owners and aspiring farmers together through our online database. We like to say we ‘link farmers to the future.’
We also have a resource page on our website at www.pafarmlink.org. Through that resource page, we offer a variety of links for people to access to help them research as they go along in their farming journey. Topics include business planning, veterans' resources, organic production, mental wellness, farm succession, beginner farming resources, etc.
Maintaining the online database is the area that I primarily work with.
Let’s talk a bit more about PA Farm Link’s land-linking database. Who uses the database and how does it work?
What we offer is an online database for landowners/farm owners and for entering or aspiring farmers. So two separate databases online through our webpage. The database is searchable 24/7 to the public. There is no fee to search our database, or if you want to be put in contact with one of our database members, there's no fee to have that done. It's one tool folks can use to either find land to lease or buy, or to find an aspiring farmer to lease or sell to.
I'll talk first about landowners. Our landowners are typically farm owners looking to find the next generation to come onto their farm and really hit the ground running to keep that land in agricultural production into the future. I’ll emphasize though that they often have specific parameters, specific details of people who they are looking for to come on and to farm their land. We do occasionally have listings from conservancies and agricultural education centers, but most of our landowners are farm owners looking to lease or sell their land for agriculture use.
When someone is interested in a PA Farm Link landowner listing, we ask for a resume, cover letter or some form of introductory information to be sent to us. This information is passed onto the farm owner to review, and it provides a snapshot of the inquiring party and their goals experience. Information sent allows the farmer to get a feel for that inquiring party and if they would be potentially a match for their farm operation. Once the farmer reviews that information, and if he or she feels there's a potential match to be made, the farm owner would then contact the inquiring party directly to discuss the farm opportunity. A key to gaining a discussion with a farm owner in our landowner database is really giving enough information to paint a detailed picture of your agricultural experience and your goals and your visions of how you want to farm.
For our entering farmer database and how that works, our entering farmers may be new farmers or existing farmers who are looking to relocate or expand their operation. It could include anyone who is looking to lease or buy farm land for agricultural use.
When a farm owner sees an entering farmer, they're scrolling through our database and they say, "Hey, this person might meet my farming operation goals." Then they contact PA Farm Link, and we often ask farm owners for some additional details. How many acres do they have? Is it currently being farmed? Are there barns and buildings to utilize?
We share that information with our entering farmer database member, and then it would be up to that member to reach out to the farmer to discuss the farming opportunity.
For either database, landowner or entering farmer, listings are available to search 24/7 from our website.
Since you work closely with the farmers and landowners in the database, would you be willing to share any “success story” matches made from the database from recent years?
Last year we worked with a farmer in the west-central part of Pennsylvania. The farm had a larger number of acres, but this farmer was looking to move on to other adventures in life. The farm had not been aggressively farmed in several years. It was an older dairy. The owner was looking for someone to come on, but still had specific goals and parameters that they were looking at for someone to buy their land and to keep it in a farm business.
We fielded several inquiries about this database listing, and finally, the owner did find a match with a couple who, when she talked to them, were able to come to an agreement. It was a perfect fit for them. They were able to secure financing, and then, the agreement went from there and they were able to come up with a sale agreement.
I will say that once we put a landowner and an entering farmer or an aspiring farmer together, try to link them together, then we really are out of that loop. Any agreements made between the two parties would be the responsibility of the landowner and that couple looking at the land.
Let me give you an example of an entering farmer success story. We had a former PA Farm Link landowner reach out to us. He was now looking for a new lease on his farm and knew the system was comfortable and familiar with our system, and searched our database, found an entering farmer that he felt might be a match. He reached out to us again, shared all the details of his farm, we shared that with the entering farmer and they were, again, able to come to a lease agreement.
This time it was a lease agreement, and that our entering farmer did move into the house on the farm this past fall to get a jumpstart on the spring planting for her business that she was looking to expand.
Again, no two situations are really ever going to be the same, and that is one thing that's very unique about our database, as opposed to, say, a realtor. Our landowners are looking for someone very specific. It does take time and patience and the ability to share information or the willingness to share information so that landowners can get an insight for what you want to do coming onto their farm.
Is there anything else you would like to share with our listeners today?
I do want to mention that PA Farm Link is currently running a 2021 kickoff promotion, and we're offering a complimentary database listing to either land owners or entering farmers, whichever you may be. This is $100 value and will continue through April 1. Take advantage of that offer to be listed on our database.
You can apply online through our website at www.pafarmlink.org or you can email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information, and I would be the one corresponding with you.