Greater Minnesota Reporter Kaomi Lee covers the story on Almanac, an award-winning public affairs show that airs statewide in Minnesota.

Please Contribute to Helping Next Generation Farm Transition

For over two decades, Singing Hills Goat Dairy has operated on 25 acres of rolling hills and prairie grasslands in the Northfield area. The farm is now transitioning to the next generation of stewards, multi-generational market vegetable farmers the Lor Family Farm. 

To make this land more affordable for future farmers, ensure it continues to be farmed sustainably, and protect the land from development, organizations throughout Minnesota are partnering to raise funds for an agricultural conservation easement. We have raised $106,000 and have $44,000 more to go!

Read more about this exciting initiative below, and please consider contributing!

Make a tax deductible donation here:

To donate by mail, please send a check with your phone number and email to:

Renewing the Countryside-SHF

2637 27th Ave S, Suite 17

Minneapolis, MN 55406

Meet the Lor Family

Kue Lor and Bao Xiong are successful, experienced vegetable farmers who have dreamed of farming their own land. For the past 30 years, the family has been farming throughout the Twin Cities, consistently facing the stressful uncertainty of land leases and affordable access to land. Currently, they are farming 20 acres, selling their vegetables at the Minneapolis Farmers Market, Midtown Farmers Market, Gandhi Mahal, and The Good Acre’s LEAFF Program. After decades of renting farmland, they are looking forward to the peace of mind of owning their own space to farm and live and passing down their farming skills and infrastructure to future generations.

About Singing Hills Goat Dairy

Singing Hills Dairy is a small farm on 25 acres of rolling pastures near the Big Woods State Park in Nerstrand, Minnesota. Lynne Reeck has owned and stewarded the land, grazing her Saanen, Nubian and Alpine breed dairy goats for the past two decades. In addition to caring for the land with expansive conservation efforts and raising animals with regenerative farming practices, Lynne created an on-farm cheese plant, where she made fresh goat cheeses that she sold at farmers markets and to restaurants and co-ops.

I have been looking for a buyer for quite awhile – it’s been a long process for me and I feel like we need more farmers and not less farmers! It was really important to me that whoever moves here appreciates what is here naturally and what can be benefitted from as well as fostered.

I really like this option of putting an easement on the land for two big reasons – first, it makes it more affordable for an emerging farmer to come in and get started. That was a huge barrier for me and it’s an even bigger barrier for small farmers now. Beyond that, the easement lives on after I’m gone, after everyone who’s here is gone. That is the beauty of it – we really are trying to protect resources for the future, and we have to do that in every way that we possibly can right now.”

After stewarding the land for decades and retiring the cheese plant earlier this winter, Lynne is enthusiastically ready to pass her legacy to the next generation of sustainable farmers.

What is an Agricultural Conservation Easement?

An Agricultural Conservation Easement is a legal instrument recorded along with a property’s deed that keeps land permanently available for agricultural use. The easement removes the development rights from the land, limiting future nonagricultural development and other uses that may be incompatible with (and ultimately threaten) farming. The removal of development rights means that the property has limitations on how it can be used in the future, which decreases the overall value of the land. This means the farm becomes more affordable for future generations of farmers. 

American Farmland Trust will purchase Singing Hills Farm from Lynne at market value, protect the land with an easement, and then sell the protected land to the Lors at a significantly reduced price. This allows Lynne to recoup her investment in the farm and enables the Lors to purchase the farm at a more affordable price. This innovative model can help farmers like Lynne retire, bridging her legacy with the Lor family’s future.

Why are Easements Important?

Affordable Farmland Access

Our state struggles to provide equitable agricultural opportunities to all Minnesotans. Most productive farmland in Minnesota, especially land within an hour of metropolitan centers, is too expensive to make farming that land viable. If we want local food, and we want a new generation of farmers, we need innovative solutions. An agricultural conservation easement will provide a reduced and more workable price and keep the land affordable for future generations of farmers.

Additionally, our country’s well-documented and troublesome history of land ownership and racial bias have created unfair, systemic barriers for emerging farmers. According to census data in the 2020 Emerging Farmers in Minnesota Legislative Report, 99 percent of farmers in Minnesota are white, despite making up 84 percent of the state’s general population. Options like Agricultural Conservation Easements combined with supplemental public and private funding opportunities in addition to other resources can help make farmland more accessible to emerging farmers.

Conservation

Every day 2,000 acres of agricultural land are paved over, fragmented, or converted to uses that jeopardize farming. An agricultural conservation easement permanently removes the development rights from the land, limiting nonagricultural development and other uses that threaten the future of farming. It can also help conserve farm soil and water resources by encouraging the adoption of regenerative farming practices and requiring farmers to follow a management plan. With this easement we can honor Singing Hills’ commitment and legacy of sustainable land stewardship.

Rural Livelihood

According to American Farmland Trust, the ownership of 40 percent of America’s agricultural land will be in transition within the next 15 years. In Minnesota, with the average farmer at 56 years old, farm transition and succession planning are critically important for the future of the agriculture sector. Supporting decades of knowledge built by farmers, agricultural conservation easements ensure the land is transitioned to the next generation of stewards who will honor the legacy of farmers before them and keep rural communities vibrant.

Support this land transition and the innovative model of farmland conservation easements by registering for Bridging Stewards Community Fundraiser, sharing this page with your network or making a tax-deductible donation with the link below.

To  donate by mail, please send a check with your phone number and email to:

Renewing the Countryside-SHF

c/o Eli Goodwell, 118 Teresa Dr., West St. Paul, MN 55118

Bridging Dreams Organizational Supporters & Co-hosts

 

Resources, Education & Tools for Farm Transitions Farmland

The Farmland Access Hub is a consortium of partners including non-profits, government agencies, local companies, and private citizens dedicated to assisting beginning farmers with their quest for land tenure. 

The Farmland Access Hub is a partnership between: Renewing the Countryside, Compeer Financial, The Conservation Fund, Dakota County, Farmers’ Legal Action Group, The Good Acre, Hmong American Farmers Association, Iroquois Valley Farms. Lakewinds Food Co-op, Land for Good, Land Stewardship Project, Sharing Our Roots, Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service, Minnesota Department of Agriculture, Minnesota Farmers Union, Minnesota Food Association, The Food Group, Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture, Practical Farmers of Iowa, Sustainable Farming Association, Twin Cities Community Agricultural Land Trust, University of Minnesota Extension.