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American Farmland Trust Awards $132,000 in Grants to New England Farmers

New England Farmer Microgrant Program Provides Support to Twenty-eight farmers  

Northampton, MA  – Today, American Farmland Trust’s New England Farmer Microgrant s  Program (NEFMP) awarded its second  round   of  grants  to support  New England farmers. The program seek s to address some of the  key  barriers faced by farmers in the region: access to land,  resources to expand production on  new or  existing land, and succession and land transfer planning. This year’s  awardees include   28  farmers from across the region, with a total  of $132,000  awarded .  

NEFMP was founded with the support of two long time AFT members  in the region.  In   2020 it  provided $181,000  to 41 farmers. The  timing of its launch was instrumental in supporting  New England farmers  newly facing  market di sruptions brough t  on by  the  COVID-19  pandemic .   In  2021, the  program  trialed a  new  nomination process,  utilizing   the  rich network of agricultural service providers around the region  to  recommend  eligible farmers  for  the  more limited number of grants  with a goal of  awarding at least 50% of the funds to  Black, Indigenous, and People of Color  ( BIPOC )  farmers  across the six New England states .      

While racial diversity is increasing overall in New England, with the non-white farming population having increased 50% since 2002, only 6% of farms are operated by non-white farmers ( USDA   Census  of Agriculture, 2017 ). NEFMP is committed to supporting limited resource and historically marginalized  agricultur al  producers, with  BIPOC  farmers representing nearly two-thirds of this year’s awardees.   

While funds were  more limited in our second year of the program, we were committed  funding a  highly diverse  range of  eligible  farmers and farm operations  across New England who would be able to benefit immediately from these f unds to enhance their productivity or their access to  farmland ,” said Jamie Pottern, American Farmland Trust ’s  New England Program Manager “Small grants like this that cover farm equipment, infrastructure, and costs associated with getting onto land or transitioning farmland are pretty rare. And farmers’ time is precious.  We tried to keep the process simple and focus on providing as much financial support as we could directly to the farmers.”   

One of this year’s awardees,  Teodulio   (“Teo”)  Martinez  del Rosario  of Martinez Farm, moved to Rhode Island from the Dominican Republic in 2014. Martinez  comes from a long line of agricultural producers and continues  that legacy in  Providence by   specializing  in  fresh beans, local honey, and other vegetables native to his home country.  Farmland values in New England have continued to be the highest in the country,  p osing si gnificant  land access  barriers  for farmers , especially for ne w and beginnin g farmers  and  New American  farmers According to USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service ( 2020 ), Rhode Island has the most expensive farm  real estate  values in the country at an average  of  $ 16 , 00 per acre.   Martinez  del Rosario   has been supported  with secure access to land   for the last 3 seasons  by renting  2 acres of land at  Urban Edge Farm  (UEF), a 50-acre state-owned property  in  Cranston   managed by the  Southside Community Land Trust  (SCLT ), that  provides land access to primarily immigrant and refugee farmers starting small farm businesses.  Martinez  del Rosario  will use the  NEFMP  funds to  purchase a  BCS  tractor to  assist with prepping and maintaining his  fields  

photo by Southside Community Land Trust

“We do well at markets but often lack time to prepare the soil and cultivate all our land effectively, while also juggling health appointments and the work of going to multiple markets, delivering for wholesale accounts, etc… Therefore, an obstacle to having a more successful business is better equipment that will allow us to efficiently prepare land for planting .    Teo Martinez del Rosario , Martinez Farm.

In the face of centuries of land dispossession, Indigenous communities have continued to fight for land and food sovereignty. Ash awaug  Farm,  a 2021  NEFMP  awardee , is  a project of the  Narragansett Food  Sovereignty   Initiative  and  the Northeast Indigenous Arts Alliance and  will also be using their funds to offset the cost of necessary  equipment The farm , located in  Ashaway ,  R hode Island ,  will function as an “agriculture and arts space that will include a range of community activities around all aspects of agriculture, seasonal foraging, and garden practices with a cultural lens , ”  said  Dawn Spears, Farmer and Director of The Northeast Indigenous Arts Allianc e

photo provided by Dawn Spears

As a Native run farm, we will be establishing ourselves as the first such agricultural enterprise  in our  area. Our vision encompasses a small-scale commercial heritage farm specializing in heirloom, culturally relevant and indigenous varieties…We see this space as a means to address food justice and food security by providing a space to grow, teach and share, a place to harvest and an outdoor classroom to engage with our community on the importance of farming while in a safe environment.  A BCS Model 750  [tractor ] , will  [help us]  support and maintain soil health while also allowing us to increase our production.”   

Another  challenge for  New  England agriculture  is  an aging  farmer population , many without a plan   for transitioning the farm  to the next generation.   A ccording to  2016 report by AFT and Land for Good,  92% of  New England’ s senior  farmers did not have a far m operator under the age of 45  working with them . This is further supported by the 2017 Census  of Agriculture , which found that 61% of farmers in New England were over the age of  5 5  (with nearly a third of all producers over age 65) , and   at least 40% of New England’s farmland—at least 1.26 million acres—reported no succession or estate planning of any kind As  New  England’s  aging farmer population  continues to grow , many  s truggle find the time and resources  to plan for the  future  of their land  

Jan Gor a ns o n  and her husband Rob  of Gor a n so n Farm in D r esden, Maine   have been farming for decades .  They will be using the funds to create a succession plan to shift ownership of the farm to their sons.   Their grant award  will go to wards  a team of key   legal , financial,  and estate planning  advisors  to support  t he process.    

photo by Kelsey Kobik

“Our family has been on this farm and land for 60 years, spanning into the third generation.  We have evolved from a commercial potato farm to an organic, diversified strawberry, flower, and vegetable farm. Our sons have worked with us since childhood and left the farm to study agriculture and ecology in college. They brought back education, experience ,  and a desire to continue producing food with sustainable practices on our land We are prime to move in a direction of sharing the responsibilities and the income of  the  business our sons have helped create. We want them to envision a future for this invaluable resource we love so dearly. This grant will energize us to move in this direction  Jan Goranson of  Goranson Farm .  

Other 2021 awardees include :   Clemmons Family Farm in Vermont Park City Harvest in Connecticut Robinson Farm in Massachusetts , and  Scruton’s Dairy in New Hampshire , among  many others.   Projects will take place over the course of  the 2021 season . To   learn more about the New England Farmer Microgrant s  Program, and read about the 2020 and 2021 awardees, visit   www. farmland .org/new-england-farmer-microgrants-program  or   contact Jamie Pottern at    

For more information about supporting the New England Farmer Microgrants Program please contact Willa Antczak, Associate Director of Development-New England  


About the Author
Emeran Irby

New England Communication & Outreach Coordinator

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