In early 2017, Northeast Farm Access (NEFA) entered into a contract to purchase Hank Kenney’s Maple Homestead Farm in Marlborough, New Hampshire, closing in July.
Maple Homestead Farm is one of a few remaining working farms in the Monadnock region, where land pricing makes it hard for farmers to purchase a “mid-scale farm” with so much acreage. We want to make it a forever farm, like the ones we have established at our three agricultural centers in New York’s Hudson Valley.
NEFA is setting up the multi-member Monadnock Agricultural Center LLC, replicating and adapting the successful legal, financial and social model we developed and implemented at Copake, Chester and Esopus. We’re holding individual meetings meantime for those wishing to learn more, including on May 27, with the new center’s first open house.
The Monadnock Center Vision
We envision the Monadnock center as exceptionally diverse:
NEFA is working with social innovator and entrepreneur Dr. Claudia Ford and her partners for the newly formed Tisané initiative to lease the main Maple Homestead farmhouse, upper fields and woods and barns. On the lower fields, we plan limited development—several small green-design houses around a restorative agricultural landscape. Bridging the two farm areas: diversified farming, a center for our agroecology work where we can leverage learning from all our properties and share that research with the wider organic community, and Tisané’s herb and food farming, plus artist farm stays.
Ongoing revenue will continue to be derived from the current hay, maple sugaring and livestock operations, while the core farm begins the transition to organic and biodynamic practices.
Farther ahead: Tisané’s 2018 plans include producing, blending, packing and shipping herbs commonly used for medicines and teas, and establishing a tea room. They will also grow vegetables, poultry, small fruits and develop beekeeping.
The NEFA Model
In brief: NEFA saves working farms by setting up Limited Liability Companies of investors interested in preserving our local agricultural systems and bringing together farmers who, with long-term renewable leases to rely on, can keep farmland producing fresh, local food. The fair and equitable returns on investment to each, and to the larger community, include:
- Perpetually conserved and actively farmed organic and biodynamic land
- Farm restoration and preservation at sustainable “mid-scale” levels
- Farm infrastructure and farmer homes
- Abundant, fresh, local food and herbs
- Secure 30-year, renewable “ground leases” for our farmer-lessees
- Financial capital preservation with 2%-4% appreciation
- On-farm experiences, such as farm stays, workshops and more
At present, the Monadnock Agricultural Center has one lead equity investment of $150,000 and bridge loans of $550,000 committed. NEFA is starting to raise another $500,000 in equity investments to complete the purchase, and about $250,000 to make initial renovations and buy much of Hank’s equipment.
Due to both Securities and Exchange Commission regulations and our organizational values, we have a very specific process for finding new investors. Without a dealer-broker license, we cannot advertise for investors. Instead we work with people with whom we have a “prior relationship,” or create one prior to discussing the investment opportunity. We do so through word of mouth, personal meetings, farm visits, or other direct discussions. This allows both NEFA and interested parties to determine if their values and interests align.
Once a “prior relationship” has been established and the party states that they would like to know about how an investment might work, pertinent conversations can begin. After years of working to acquire this locally important farm, we are now seeking meetings with people interested in learning more about NEFA’s methods.