Sustainable Iowa Land Trust (SILT) Plays Farm Matchmaker
Today there is a new breed of farmer who was not necessarily born on a century farm. They are not part of a long family legacy, their identity forged from the expectation that they’d inherit or buy into the family operation. This new breed are outsiders: they are dream rich and land poor. They look to the collective knowledge of farming and lean heavily away from today’s conventional farming practices to embrace more sustainable crop and soil management. They are often supported by their small but devoted group of buyers. These farmers have cultivated their skills from working a patch of dirt until it’s green, but can’t grow from these humble roots without a benefactor or investors that reach beyond their CSA shareholders and farmer’s markets. They need a once in a lifetime opportunity to make their organic, sustainable, regenerative farming practices not only be able to sustain their communities, but be able to support them.
Just imagine: you’ve got the skills you need to be a successful farmer outside of conventional farming practices, but you’ll never being able to turn enough of a profit to grow your operation so that it’s actually feasible to live off of your hard work. Imagine toiling for years until you finally burn out or quit out of the reality that you’ll never have enough put away to save, let alone make it through winter. You’re stuck, but you love what you do and you know that your practices are better for our soil, our air, our waterways and healthier for our bodies and our environment. You are invested being a part of a regenerative community, and you need someone, something to invest in you.
That is where SILT comes in. SILT is the “Sustainable Iowa Land Trust,” a very new (as of February 2015) organization that seeks to place qualified farmers with farm land. They look for land around cities or towns and work with city planners and developers to build small, independent family farms into the planning process, while also advocating with landowners and farmers planning their estates “to meet their needs and wishes while preserving land to grow healthy food forever.” The farms that SILT helps to establish are meant to become “hands-on, real-life educational centers for farmers to learn the latest, greatest techniques in sustainable food production from other farmers employing best practices from around the country and the world while developing new ones all the time.” SILT offers qualified farmers “long-term, inheritable leases that free them from a lifetime of debt.” The point is to create opportunities for farmer to enjoy the pride of ownership of their homes, barns and business. To do this SILT takes the price of the land itself out of the equation for sustainable farmers all across Iowa.
Now, imagine you are an organic farmer looking for land and instead of nowhere to go, there is a growing list on the web of farmers looking for land that retiring farmers and developers can be matched to. it’s almost like an online dating service, except instead of these matches producing babies, they’re producing sustainable change.
Check out this new organization at SILT.org