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call for farmers

Posted: November 2 2010

New Spirit Ventures (NSV) is a social finance organization facilitating a flow of capital to farmers while fostering the kind of land stewardship and social ethic that will protect and nourish the earth for future generations.

The goal of our Organic Farmland Access Program is to help farmers committed to organic or sustainable agriculture start, maintain and grow their operations by addressing their need for long term access to land.  We do this by linking farmers with socially motivated investors who will purchase the farmland they need and lease it to them on long-term, renewable leases with an option to buy.
To date, we have helped four different organic farmers expand their farming operations in the Midwest, through the purchase of over 670 total acres. Each farmer is paying market rent or below on a fifteen year lease with an option to buy. At this time we have additional people interested in purchasing and leasing out farmland and seek to expand our pool of farmers wanting to start or grow their businesses.
Currently we are accepting applications from:

  • Farmers in Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota and Iowa who are seeking additional land to grow their operations;
  • Farmers seeking a whole farm in which in start or grow their operations; and
  • We are particularly (but not exclusively) interested in applications from farmers who are, or want to be located in the driftless region* or the St. Croix River Valley.

*While primarily in southwestern Wisconsin, the driftless region includes parts of southeastern Minnesota, northeastern Iowa and northwestern Illinois
See the below Questions and Answers section for further details on the program and farmer criteria.
How to Apply
To apply, please send a letter of no more than three, single-spaced pages (12 point font). Feel free to include additional information such as a farm brochure or photograph, etc. Please answer the following questions:

  1. Describe your farm and your business. Please include the history and goals of your operation, the location, size and character of your farm, the different products you raise and whether you are certified in any manner.
  2. Describe how you market your different products and how long you have worked with your current buyer/s. What have been your challenges and successes as a business?
  3. Describe the farmland you have in mind and why you are seeking this assistance. Please include how much land, where it is located, how obtainable it is, what you think it would cost and what kind of lease terms you would propose.
  4. Please send three names as references from some of the businesses or organizations with whom you work, for example, farm groups, buyers, certifiers, bankers, or agencies (i.e. Extension Service, NRCS, etc).
  5. Please include all your contact information, such as your email, phone numbers and address.

Send your letter by email to [email protected] or by US Postal Service to W2811 Friemoth Road, East Troy, WI 53120. The second step of the application process, if we feel you are a good fit, will include a review of your financial statements, tax records from the past three years, and possibly a site visit.
Inquiries about this program should be directed to Jim Holub at: 319.310.7263 or by email to [email protected]
Questions and Answers
1. How does this program work?
We are focused on organic or sustainable farmers who need a new farm, additional land, or help maintaining their existing land base, and who cannot afford or do not want to tie up their capital in land acquisition. We have people who are interested in purchasing the farmland needed and leasing it to the farmer on a long-term renewable lease. The leases may include:

  • A lower or stable lease payment during the first three years while the land is being transitioned to a new production system, if necessary;
  • An option to buy, for the farmer, at a fair market value;
  • A conservation plan, to insure proper care of any woodlots, stream banks, etc.;
  • If a cash rent approach is used, the rental rates may be adjusted every fourth year based on changes in local rents rates. Farmers applying should feel free to propose other approaches, including some type of crop share or flexible lease arrangement.

The owners of the land may also choose to donate or sell a conservation easement to prevent non-farm development on the land but this will be determined on a case by case basis.
2. Who should apply?
These criteria will be considered when reviewing your application:

  • Small and mid-sized farmers managing diversified crop and livestock operations, diversified direct marketing CSA type operations or on-farm artisanal food businesses;
  • Farmers who can demonstrate a commitment to the holistic principles of organic, biodynamic or sustainable agriculture whether or not they are certified in any way;
  • Farmers who have been operating for at least five years, have stable markets, good bookkeeping practices and a track record of profitability;
  • Applications will be considered from beginning farmers without five years of experience if they have graduated from a Farm Beginnings program;
  • Farmers who have, or anticipate having, land near them available for purchase;
  • Farmers who are open to being in partnership with a land owner;
  • Applications are also encouraged from farmers who are seeking additional land in order to help their children or another person become a partner in their farming operation or in order to manage a generational succession.

3. What kind of land owners and social impact capital providers are you working with?
We work with land owners and social impact capital providers who are:

  • Committed to the preservation of farmland and to organic/sustainable agriculture;
  • Willing to hold their farmland long-term and provide, at a minimum, long-term, renewable leases at market prices with an option to buy at a fair market value if they ever want to sell the land;
  • Not looking to profit through the eventual sale of the land to developers; and
  • Seeking a stable, modest return on their farmland.

4. What distinguishes you from a farm management company?
Our approach begins with the needs of the farmer and a belief that farmer stewardship and independence is important to long term health of rural communities and of the working landscape.  Access to farmland on a long-term basis at affordable prices is critical to the success of organic and sustainable farmers of every kind.  There is currently no other actor or entity in the market focused on meeting this need in this way.
Click here for a .pdf version of the Call for Farmers.