Northeast Farm Access, LLC, brings together farmers, social investors and local allies, especially conservation land trusts, to revive and transform sustainable agriculture—yielding not just abundant clean, local food, but also a new generation of successful organic farmers. Our innovative projects create long-term access to farmland and food while also growing farmer and investor equity. With investor support, we buy land, transition it to organic, and lease it long-term and affordably to experienced farmers.
We envision equitable partnerships between farmers and investors that broaden access to farmland and food, preserve natural and financial capital, restore our environment, and create more resilient local food systems.
Northeast Farm Access believes there is a critical need for new, equitable approaches to farm investment. Our mission is to secure social and financial capital in farmland using methods that work well for farmers, investors, communities and the land.
Investors, farmers and communities all know what they need. We focus on what they need from one another. NEFA negotiates with both investors and farmers to build on common interests and work through disparate ones. We remove the obstacles to their working together through conservation easements, farmer ground leases, residential leases, and multi-member LLC operating agreements. Altogether these create a fair and durable set of agreements.
NEFA stays involved, typically as managing member of the owning LLC. Each relationship is unique; our agreements clear and highly functional. All agreements express our NEFA criteria for social investments.
Typical NEFA projects range from $1,500,000 to $2,500,000 with yields varying on a farm-by-farm basis. The returns include financial, social and environmental components. Our model builds equity for all, and strives to address the following core challenges: the fact that mid-scale farms cost more than most farm seekers can afford; the profound and persistent lack of farm succession plans; the inability of most non-farming landowners to enter into long-term lease arrangements.
We enable investors to purchase farms together, or lease long-term. The core of our work is to establish long-term connections between investors and farmers, rooted in the interests of each and in the land, resulting in long-term and affordable tenure. From there come viable farm operations, and broader consumer access to fresh, clean food. With NEFA’s guidance, investors, farmers and our allies—especially conservation land trusts–create strong tenure through long-term leases on lands with conservation easements in place.
Agreements could include:
- Investor multi-member LLC or individual investor purchases the farm and leases to the farmer for a long term at an affordable rate. (Note: secure long-term leases often cost more to create but, NEFA and our farmer-lessees believe, are worth more.)
- Investor purchases the farm and leases to individual farmers or entities on a 30-year or similar, long-term basis until they, she or he purchases at appraised agricultural value or at a pre-calculated maximum purchase option price.
- One or more investors purchase abutting properties and link them agriculturally and operationally as larger farm properties through lease or resale.
Farm leases or sales may be either to individual farmers or multiple operator “associations,” such as cooperatives or other farmer collaborations. NEFA arrangements meet the interests of the investor, the farmers, communities and the land.
How We Work
NEFA financial strategy carefully extends beyond the parameters of conventional sources of farm capital. In some ways, our approach better resembles extended family financing. We support proven farmers whose financial capital is less than that required to purchase a farm on which to expand their commercial operation or business. Evaluating farms and engaging a broad range of successful and promising farmers is one key to NEFA’s success. In addition to staff review, we contract independent financial underwriting from Farm Credit East to provide objective analyses of prospective lessees’ proposed farm operations at one of our centers.
Once they have worked with a NEFA lease for three to five years, these farmers may be considered “seasoned” by conventional lenders and qualify for the capital available through those channels. When that happens, and by virtue of NEFA’s efforts, a farmer once by constrained by capital will have better reached their potential as a grower, as a business person and as an important provider of good local food. Our goal is for the farmer to have built financial equity apart from the value of the land, and for the investor to have preserved financial capital in the land–while the community benefits immediately and long term from both.
We Find Farmers
NEFA works closely with the dozens of farmer organizations throughout New England and the Hudson Valley. Word gets out quickly when a great farm opportunity becomes available. We pre-qualify and coach farmers to meet our program standards. Then we coordinate with them to form an “agricultural center.”
NEFA works with farmers who have at least five years of experience–two in management positions—as well as demonstrated entrepreneurial capacity. These farmers may have been working the land when it was purchased or relocated to work that land after it was purchased by a multi-member LLC or individual investor.
We Find Investors
Friends, family and word of mouth have been guiding investors to NEFA so far. The demand seems huge. The notion of owning local farmland appeals to those who appreciate the balance between the kinds of return and the special value of farmland as an asset. The financial return that our social investors receive mirrors the financial return that farmers accept—both from their generous efforts.
Our services are suited for accredited and “farm-savvy” or sophisticated investors, foundations and funds who care about all the ways that our farms benefit our communities. Our investors understand that farming and soil-building take time, a kind of slow investing by farmers and funders both, and one that yields abundant rewards for all.
We Find Farms
Conservation land trusts bring us projects to work through together. Local-ag supporters call with farms in transition that they hope we may undertake. Landowners ask if we can purchase their farms and keep them working.
We evaluate farmland based on natural resources—open tillable land, primarily–and on cost, location, and enterprise potential as well as other factors. The property’s importance to the local community is key. Is the land ready to be farmed, or will three years of revitalization be needed before it meets organic standards? Are market challenges offset by opportunities? What kinds of farming activities are best suited for the land? Is one or more farmer already working the farm, or interested in farming there? How well does the farm suit the investor’s interests and resources as well as those of the farmer?
NEFA evaluates these considerations and more to qualify the farm as investment and advise all parties in the challenges and opportunities it offers.
Read our NEFA Social Investment statement.