The transition of farms and ranches to the next generation has generated considerable attention and concern. Over the past 30 years, public and private institutions across the U.S. have introduced policies and programs to help farms without identified family successors achieve successful transfers by connecting them with new farmers through “farm link” services. However, the effectiveness of these services is unclear and assessment is needed. This primarily qualitative study used interviews with program leaders and their responses to a questionnaire to assess the 30 active and closed farm link programs of the 12 states of the U.S. Midwest and Central Plains, resulting in a collection of best practice recommendations. Broadly, these programs target differing audiences and offer various services not limited to the function of linking farm/ranch owners with potential non-family successors. Most programs are located in NGO's (63%), with the others hosted by state departments of agriculture and land grant university extension systems. Program leaders agree that linking is needed to augment seekers’ and owners’ personal networks. They recommend that farm link services focus on medium-term outcomes, and provide a list of metrics. Program leaders also recommend other, complementary services to support and advance non-family transitions to new farmers, primarily: (1) state-level beginning farmer tax credits; (2) educating farm owners’ advisors, such as lenders and tax preparers, about their clients’ opportunities to transfer to an incoming farmer; (3) case management to facilitate transfers between unrelated parties; and (4) providing discussion spaces online and on social media to build farmer/rancher networks and relations between farm seekers and farm owners.
Valliant, J. C. D., Ruhf, K. Z., Gibson, K. D., Brooks, J. R., & Farmer, J. R. (2019). Fostering farm transfers from farm owners to unrelated, new farmers: A qualitative assessment of farm link services. Land Use Policy, 86, 438–447. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.landusepol.2019.05.004