After five years of searching, Tim Biello finally found the perfect farm.
It’s a 63-acre mix of fields, wetlands and ponds, ideal for the year-round community-supported agriculture business he plans to start with his wife, Jamielynn.
“It’s kind of insanely pretty here. It’s awesome. We love it,” the 35-year-old Biello said during a recent tour of the Charlton property, which he and his wife have been leasing since late May.
He outlined plans to power the farm with draft horses Bear and Duke, who grazed contentedly in a nearby field. He said he’d also like to create a discovery garden for children.
Finding the right property on which to pursue those dreams was no easy task, but it was made simpler thanks to resources offered through the Hudson Valley Farmlink Network. The network connects farmers and non-farming owners of agricultural land, helps farm families transfer their farms to the next generation and hosts a Farmland Finder website.
Biello coordinates the network, which is celebrating its one-year anniversary. In its first year, the farming resource helped more than 30 farmers find land and educated 350 farmers and farmland owners on topics including farmland leasing and purchasing.
The network offers resources for farmers at any point in their career, including those wishing to transition out of the industry.
Selling to developers
“In the past, farmers, when they wanted to retire, sold [their farm] to whoever could pay them the most, and too often that was somebody that was going to develop that property. In New York, we’ve paved over the equivalent of 4,500 farms since the early 1980s, at the pace of like two farms a week,” said David Haight, New York State director for American Farmland Trust, the organization that coordinates the Farmlink Network.
“We know that one of the most common points in time when that happens to a farm is when a senior generation of a family is looking to transition and they don’t see an alternative.
For more information on the Hudson Valley Farmlink Network, visit www.HudsonValleyFarmlandFinder.org.
“That’s really a big driver for why many of us are involved in this effort. We don’t want to see that past continued into the future.”
Biello said the network is also a valuable resource for aspiring farmers like himself.
“It’s hard for a lot of farmers. They’ve got the fire, they’re passionate, but to take the time and do good planning, and really think through some of your life goals, and the whole farm business planning, and what you want to do is so important,” he said.
Access to a representative from the Farmlink Network helps to personalize and facilitate the planning process.
“There’s basically infinite resources on the Internet for all these kind of things and without somebody who’s kind of keyed into your area and can take a moment to talk with you and say, ‘What are you looking to do? What’s your timeline? What’s your skill set? Where do you need to build it?’ Without somebody doing that, you’re kind of floundering around in a sea of resources,” Biello said.
The Farmlink Network includes 15 partner organizations that provide one-on-one help to farmers, including cost-sharing services and business planning advice. Many other organizations are also recommended through the network as resources.
Biello received assistance from several of the partner organizations, including the Local Farms Fund, a farmland investor group. The fund bought the property Biello plans to farm, and he has entered into a lease-to-own agreement with the fund.
The Local Farms Fund is also working to put an agricultural conservation easement on the property, which would ensure the land will always be available for farming, and would provide tax benefits.
Haight said he was pleasantly surprised to see the positive impact the Farmlink Network made during its first year, and has high hopes for the future.
“I think we’re at the front edge of some really exciting opportunities in the Hudson Valley and I think this partnership is going to make some great things happen in the next few years,” he said.
Reach Gazette reporter Kelly de la Rocha at 395-3040, firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @KellydelaRocha.