Help for Farm Start-Ups

Paul Hamilton has begun to prepare the soil on the Peconic Land Trust’s land in Springs for a farmers market garden he manages. Carrie Ann Salvi

    The Peconic Land Trust, which has helped protect more than 10,000 acres of land on Long Island, much of which is used for working farms, has announced an opportunity for farmers to get their hands on farmland, equipment, education, and support. Its Farm Incubator Program is geared toward food production farming, due to the issues of affordability and sustainability that threaten the agricultural industry and security of the food supply, according to the trust.
    To be considered for the program, farmers must have a minimum of one to three years of farm experience, and cannot have previously owned farmland. They must give the land trust a business plan that includes market opportunities with measurable financial goals.
    On the South Fork, most of the available land will be at Quail Hill Farm in Amagansett.
    A committee will screen applicants and make recommendations to the trust’s board of directors based on the applicants’ awareness of sustainable agricultural practices, their emphasis on food production, their personal capacity to cover living expenses, their openness to recommendations, their connection to the community, and alignment with the mission of the trust. An important part of the program’s mission is to use sustainable farming methods to improve the health of the soil and the community.
    Competition with existing farms as well as traffic and land use issues will also be considered in awarding five-year leases, which will be subject to an annual review. After five years, farmers will be required to relocate, unless there is still farmland available, in which case a short-term lease may be arranged. The trust will offer assistance securing future leases on their land or with land owned by partnering farmers and landowners.
    Fees for land, barn, and greenhouse rentals and deer fencing and irrigation will apply, as well as a lease execution fee of $100. The program will include free ongoing training and support, including monthly meetings where farmers can share questions, advice, and concerns during the course of the growing season.
    Interested farmers can submit a résumé and business plan to Stephen Searl, the project manager, at ssearl@peconic or 296 Hampton Road, P.O. Box 1776, Southampton 11969 by March 31. The board of directors will make its determinations by April 15.