For more than two years, young and disadvantaged farmers around Iowa have been asking what SILT will require to farm its farms. Applicants with no long-term access to land but who have experience and a business plan will make the first cut. The SILT Farmer Committee deliberated extensively over issues of equity and historic imbalance as well, and reviewers are instructed to be cognizant of those issues when reviewing applications.
In the process of developing the policy, SILT queried land trusts across the country, including fellow members of the Land Trust Alliance and the staff at American Farmland Trust and could not find a policy that vets farmers based on their lack of access to affordable land.
“As far as we know, we are the first in the nation to use economic need and a holistic approach to farming as criteria for farmer candidates,” said SILT President Suzan Erem. “This is what farmland trusts can do best – reducing the cost of land for future farmers.” She thanked the National Young Farmers Coalition for its work on this issue at the national level.
Ad hoc SILT Farmer Committee members included: Kayla Koether, chair, Carmen Black, Fred Kirschenmann, Shanti Sellz, Tom Wahl, Larry Cleverley, Neo Mazur, Sally Gran, Jake Kundert, Connie Mathes and Steffen Mirsky. All but two members are or have been farmers.
Koether is a member of the ISU Extension Local Foods Team and coordinates the NE Iowa Beginning Farmer Network on behalf of the NE Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative.