Tangleroot Farm, on Old Saratoga Road in Gansevoort, New York was started this year by young farmers Susan Cerny and Adam Reed. Like many beginning farmers, Reed and Cerny have not inherited family land to facilitate the start of their farm. Instead they are leasing land from an established landowner as a way to start their agricultural enterprise.
About the Farm:
Tangleroot Farm is a one and a half acre organic vegetable farm dedicated to connecting local communities with good quality food. They currently offer CSA memberships, work trade options, and volunteering opportunities. Depending on the season, a CSA share includes lettuce, spinach, scallions, carrots, beets, kohlrabi, squash, tomatoes, swiss chard, watermelons, turnips, fennel, eggplant, parsnips, cauliflower, and much more!
Additionally, stop by the farm on April 20th, 2013 for Tangleroot Farm Plow Day at 10am. The Washington County Draft Animal Association will be bringing their teams to the farm to plow the fields.
The Great Land Search:
Cerny and Reed began their search for agricultural land in New York when they were both living in Utah. They found that programs such as Land Link, Farm Link, and the Columbia Land Conservancy’s Farmer Landowner Match Program provided a great base of information on what kinds of farms existed and the different kinds of lease arrangements that are available. They found that “leasing, buying, lease to own, communes, co-work, co-own, and free land as long as it would be used for certain farming practices” agreements existed across the state, said Cerny.
Once they moved back to New York and rented an apartment, they started their land hunt by visiting a few parcels of land that fit their requirements. Cerny explained that “we were looking for a 1-2 acre field, with water access, within 20 minutes of town, and close to their families’ hometowns. Some land was not very good farmland, especially the parcels put up by well-meaning homeowners with large backyards and fields.” There was also a wide range of rental prices. They came across everything from exhaustive rent to free, so long as they met certain conditions.
During the search process Reed and Cerny learned that the field right outside their apartment had been used as a horse pasture for many years before transferring hands to their current landlord. “We didn’t really know if it was acceptable practice to ask someone who wasn’t advertising if we could rent and use their land. And not just use it, but transform it. Fences, irrigation systems, and plowing all drastically change a landscape.” Luckily, their meeting with their landlord went exceptionally well and they came out with a better deal than they could have imagined.
The Lease Agreement:
Their landlord “was enthusiastic at the prospect of the unused land being productive and gave us the right to farm it so long as we kept the rest of the grassy areas of his land mowed in the summer months” said Cerny. Their agreement did not require that they pay anything in addition to their already established rent for housing. Plus, their landlord gave Cerny and Reed full use of his shed and tractor, and helped them design a greenhouse. In exchange, the landlord is able to take whatever food from the farm that he needs for himself and his five children.
Agreements such as this one can prove to be mutually beneficial to both the landowner and the tenant. Landowners can get substantial tax deductions, such as an agricultural exemption, if their land qualifies as productive agricultural land. This way landowners can reconnect with their land without having to perform the back-breaking work, while knowing that they are helping a beginning farmer start their business. Moreover, match programs ensure that landowners have willing and able people to transfer their farm to. In exchange, beginning farmers can be tutored by more experienced landowners that not only have knowledge, but passion for the land and business.
It is important to understand the various legal aspects of leasing farmland. Landowners need to protect their property by ensuring that there are good husbandry provisions and liability provisions in the lease. Tenants need to protect their interests by ensuring that the lease contains their rights and responsibilities, as well as the price of rent, when it is due, and length of the lease. Read more on agricultural leases here.
Young beginning farmers are a new demographic in the farming community. These ‘Greenhorns’ are an eager and inspired bunch, despite the fact that farming is not the most lucrative profession, and are creating innovative ways to begin their enterprises. The good news is that many established landowners “understand the challenges young farmers face and want to make farming accessible to younger generations, or simply to see their land farmed” said Cerny. Match programs provide a great avenue to foster these relationships.
Reed and Cerny are still unsure about their future and what may come as they continue to develop their agricultural enterprise. They hope that someday they will own their own farm, but the time and place have to be right. For now, Cerny says “the more we work our field, the more we fall in love with it. For two people looking to manage a small CSA and farm stand, our field is perfect.”