The recent tragic events in Japan and news of increasing radiation fallout around the globe have led to a growing interest in past reports of a possible role of biodynamic preparations in protecting farms and food from radioactivity.
Over the next 20 years we could lose many of our most sustainable organic and biodynamic farms and the reason might surprise you.
It’s not because the government is going to shut them down for selling raw milk or because of pesticide drift from nearby conventional farmers or because Monsanto is suing them.
The answer, it turns out, is a lot more mundane: retirement.
Many of our best and brightest ecological farmers want to retire in the coming years, and some of them (many of them by some estimates) do not have a successor or any kind of succession plan.
In fact, it has been estimated that over the next 20 years 400 million of the 900 million acres currently being farmed in the US will be transitioning due to farmer retirement.
This reality is the inspiration behind a new program of New Spirit Farmland Partnerships, which we’re calling our Organic Farm Succession Program. The purpose of this program is two-fold.
First, we want to make it possible for successful organic farmers to retire (or
simply move on) without their farm being sold back into the conventional farming paradigm. Our second goal is to give the next generation of ecological farmers a leg up by helping them take over one of these mature, successful organic or biodynamic operations.
It’s an elegant idea and we’re confident that it can work. In fact, we’ve already entered into our first project.
This May, New Spirit facilitated the purchase of a stunningly beautiful 640-acre organic dairy farm in the driftless region of Wisconsin by an ethical investor who is committed to the long-term ecological stewardship and preservation of the farm. This transaction will allow Mike and Pam Green, who have been farming the land lovingly since 1982 but who now wish to retire in Virginia, to move on with their lives.
We have now begun the process of seeking a new farmer for the land. The new farmer will get a long-term lease at a fair rental rate, an option to purchase the farm, and the opportunity to build equity in the meantime. In addition, the farm has a long-standing contract with Organic Valley and the new farmer will be able to continue that relationship from day one.
In short, this is a remarkable opportunity. All the details are here.
Though the work of New Spirit has been focused regionally in the Upper Midwest, we’re planning to turn our Organic Farm Succession Program into a national program and to launch a fund designed to support it. Investors in the fund will be making a commitment to the long-term stewardship and preservation of these farms.
If you’re interested in partnering with New Spirit to help make this new program a reality, please let me know. We need investors, we need non-profit partners around the country, and we need start-up funds.
In the meantime, if you know an organic dairy farmer who might be interested in taking on Mike and Pam’s farm, please send them to this page for more information or ask them to contact Jim Holub at 319.310.7263 or Jim.Holub@NewSpiritFP.com.