Farmland Access Initiative
The demand for locally grown food is rapidly increasing in the Pittsburgh region. However, it can be difficult for farmers, particularly those just starting out, to find farmland close to urban markets due to high costs of land. There is a need for a proactive effort to make affordable farmland available to new and established farmers.
To help address the challenge of land access, the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy is working to acquire several farm properties that are highly suitable for diverse, small-scale agricultural operations and are easily accessible to the Pittsburgh market. After properties are acquired, we will work closely with farmers and help them lease the land.
We will solicit proposals from farmers who desire to lease the properties, will evaluate these proposals, and will select farmers to lease each property based on the suitability of their proposal for our program. Local partners will play a key role in assisting the Conservancy in selecting tenants for the farms acquired. Long-term leases will be developed to ensure that the farmers can rely on the availability of land while developing their farm operations.
For each parcel that is acquired, the Conservancy will incorporate a “whole farm” management approach, developing plans for each farm that will identify areas for protection, such as stream buffers, wetlands or high quality habitat and will work with the farmers to develop soil conservation plans for the agricultural portions of the property.
Our land conservation, stewardship and watershed conservation staff, will work collaboratively with the tenant farmers to ensure the natural features of the property are protected while maximizing agricultural productivity. Our partners will be available to provide assistance with farmer education, marketing, business management and other aspects of operating a successful agricultural business.
We can acquire properties through purchase, donation, or “bargain sale.” Tax benefits may be possible for donation of property, or for properties sold at less than fair market value. Our staff can discuss options with landowners who are interested in conveying land to the Conservancy for this program.
We believe there is a critical need for available farmland to support the burgeoning local food economy. We are committed to playing a leadership role in supporting this economy through the acquisition, protection and leasing of affordable, quality farmland in the Pittsburgh region.