AUGUSTA — Maine Farmland Trust and Land For Good will host the fifth annual Farmland Access & Transfer Conference from 8 to 3:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 18, at the Augusta Civic Center, 76 Community Drive.

At the day-long conference, farmers can learn strategies for tackling succession planning, participate in conversations about equity and affordability, gain the skills to find and secure farmland of their own, negotiate a good lease agreement, and more, according to a news release from the trust.

The conference will include a plenary panel on Land Justice: Acknowledging Our Past, Changing Our Future, organized by Land in Common, and breakout sessions led by farmers and service providers from across the region that cover a wide range of topics — from transferring a business to creating an agricultural lease, urban agriculture, and the importance of farm succession planning.

“Nearly 30% of New England’s farmers are likely to exit farming in the next 10-plus years, and nine out of 10 of them are farming without a young farmer alongside them,” said Jim Hafner, executive director at Land For Good and co-host of the conference, referring to a recent study (Gaining Insights), according to the release. “While this does not mean that these farmers don’t have a succession plan, it does suggest the future of many of these farms is uncertain. And at the same time, access to land remains one of the biggest challenges for beginning farmers in New England.”

Today’s farmers, including those who are transitioning out of farming and those who are starting new farm enterprises, will have a pivotal role in shaping the future of the regional food system. Farmers also can also make valuable connections at this conference. Last year, the conference brought together more than 130 established and beginning farmers, landowners and agricultural service providers, according to the release.

“The issues, strategies, skills, and discussions shared at this conference have relevance far beyond Maine,” said Hafner, according to the release. This is the largest conference in the region focused solely on land access and transfer. Across New England, farmers worry about how they will transfer their land while others worry about how they will establish equitable and affordable access to land.

The conference is geared toward farm seekers, retiring farmers, and land owners to help them better understand the options, resources, and steps to accessing or transferring farms or farmland.

This year’s conference also will feature content, including panel discussions, of interest to service providers and other farm advocates as well as others with an interest in fostering affordable and equitable farmland access.

“In the next decade, more than 400,000 acres of Maine farmland will transition in ownership, raising the question: what will happen to that land and who will have the opportunity to farm it in the future?” said Erica Buswell, vice president of Programs for Maine Farmland Trust and co-host of the conference, according to the release. “To ensure this farmland stays in production, all of us must find a way to support land transition with programs that help farmland owners and aspiring farmland owners and make land available and affordable for all.”

Conference presenters include local farmers and service providers working on the ground in Maine, as well as experts from around New England. Exhibits and networking opportunities will be available throughout the day.

The conference is hosted by Maine Farmland Trust, and Land For Good. Sponsors include Maine Harvest Credit Union, Agrarian Trust, BCM Environmental & Land Law, Conservation Law Foundation, Greenhorns, Maine Organic Farmers & Gardeners Association, Farm Credit East, Land In Common, Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, Cooperative Development Institute, and American Farmland Trust. Additional sponsorship opportunities are available.

The deadline to register is Nov. 13. Cost of attendance is $15 and includes a lunch sourced from local farmers and producers.

For more information or to register, visit mainefarmlandtrust.org/access-2019.

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