Prices for farmland throughout the United States have increased substantially in the past 30 years. According to the 1997 Census of Agriculture, Maine’s farmland values increased 639% from 1969 to 1997 and have continued to rise since then. Although Maine’s prices remain lower, on average, than other New England states, purchasing land still requires capital that many farmers do not have.
Buying a farm is not the only way to farm in Maine. Farmers who are ready to run their own agricultural business often must consider “non-ownership” options in addition to outright farm purchase. In fact, a large majority of Maine farmers have always leased a significant portion of the land they operate.
Non-ownership tenure can be arranged in a number of ways, including short-term and long-term leases, lease-to-own purchase agreements and partnerships. These arrangements can often ensure that the land remains in agriculture while easing your initial financial burdens.
For more information on non-ownership tenure, there is a useful guidebook for both farmland owners and seekers called, Holding Ground: A Guide to Northeast Tenure and Stewardship (2004) published by the New England Small Farm Institute and Intervale Foundation. You can order a copy directly from NESFI on their website www.smallfarm.org.