Traverse City Record-Eagle


October 30, 2013

Nonprofits plant seed of farmer residency program


Purchasing land can be prohibitive for people looking to farm, especially when land is priced based on its developmental value, not its agricultural value.

The result is that new farmers like Ferrarese end up renting land instead of purchasing it. The result is that she’s unable to make certain upgrades to the land because it doesn’t make sense to make long-term investments on property she might not own one day.

Land values affect not only new small farmers, but established family farmers, as well.

“It’s a lot different than what I grew up with, because right now we’re farming 15 farms. We rent from people who are retired or died,” said Brent Wagner of Wagner Farms in Grawn.

The family owned farm has grown crops like corn and soybeans since 1903. Wagner still isn’t sure how long he can continue to rent and own large tracts of land.

In addition to temporarily relieving new farmers of land costs, ISLAND plans to give them other opportunities to learn.

The groups hope to work with Michigan State University and farmers to teach the residents how to write a business plan, perform cash flow analysis, as well as other farmers to offer technical support.

ISLAND is accepting applications for one residency spot for the 2014 growing season. The group hopes to be able to offer a total of three residencies over as many years.

Participants will be working a small plot on 11 acres of Maple Bay Farm in Williamsburg.



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