By JOHN MICHAELSON
Minnesota News Connection
ST. PAUL, Minn. (July 16, 2013) — With the growing demand for locally-produced and organic foods, a new crop of farmers is entering the field in Minnesota – but finding some major barriers in their way.
According to Nick Olson, program organizer with the Land Stewardship Project, the biggest hurdle is getting their hands on affordable land.
“We’re seeing that nationwide and especially here in Minnesota,” he reported. “As most of us know, land prices have continued to go up, and that’s just making it harder and harder for beginning farmers to access long-term, affordable land.”
Olson noted that prices vary widely across the state, but said it’s not unusual for some of the best farmland to pull in around $10,000 an acre. The price for land, he added, also plays into the other major hurdle for new farmers, access to capital.
To help those just starting out, the Land Stewardship Project offers a Farm Beginnings Program, which Olson said is community-based and farmer-led.
“We have a lot of farmers that we’re using to come into our program, whether they teach a class on marketing, teach a class on financial planning, or they host a field day and teach a class right on their farm,” he said. “So the strong network that we’ve been able to establish over the past few years is what’s really made our program strong.”
Three classes will be offered this fall, in Winona, St. Cloud and Duluth. More information is available on the Land Stewardship Project website at bit.ly/11RavcY.