National organization links landowners and farmers

Young Agrarians supports young and new farmers through online resources and personalized assistance

Given the dramatic rise in the value of farmland in the Pemberton Valley and Squamish area, young farmers are increasingly turning to leasing land as a way to live their farming dreams.

Yet getting established (and finding a landowner willing to rent you a parcel) can be challenging.

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That's where Young Agrarians comes in.

The national organization is a "farmer to farmer" resource that supports new and young agrarians, explained Darcy Smith, who works for the organization.

The goal of the Young Agrarians is to help cultivate new farmers and help them establish a "thriving farm business," she said.

Young Agrarians also offers resources aimed at helping farmers find land to lease and build their business, which are available through its engaging website.

"I feel like they do have some great options where you can look if you do want to develop your business," said Naomi Martz, owner and operator of Pemberton's Four Beat Farm.

Such resources—like a map where landowners can post available property or a guide for how to negotiate lease agreements—are useful for young people starting out, said Martz.

"I think there is lots of land in Pemberton in terms of renting," said Martz. "It's just finding the right situation and partner, with the landowner—just something that really fits on both ends," she said.

The average age for a farmer in Canada is now 56 years old, and the high cost of land and lack of access to capital can be barriers for new entrants, she explained. "We have an aging farmer demographic and we are also facing a really high cost of land," said Smith.

What's more, many new entrants haven't grown up farming, she added.

"They don't have ... the same kind of knowledge base that someone who grew up on a family farm would have," said Smith, who believes certain areas in the province have reached "market failure" when it comes to starting a farm.

"With the current cost of land, it's actually not viable to purchase land and pay that mortgage through farming in Metro Vancouver. And yet, it's still very important for people to start farm businesses, because we really need to make sure we have farmers who can take up the reins (when) the older generation of farmers retires," she said.

As part of its work, Young Agrarians runs the B.C. Land Matching program, which offers personalized support for farmers and landowners who are considering leasing their land to young farmers. (Smith serves as land matcher for Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley.)

After launching the initiative as a pilot program in Metro Vancouver in 2016, Young Agrarians expanded it across southern B.C.; there are now five dedicated land managers in B.C.

So far, Young Agrarians is not considering establishing a dedicated land manager in the Sea to Sky. But Smith said that with the right local government support, it's something that the organization would consider. "We know a lot of people are interested in farming in the Sea to Sky corridor. It's a beautiful region that's close to market; that makes it very appealing to farmers," said Smith.

A land managers located elsewhere would still be eager to work with any farmers and landowners who happen to live in the Sea to Sky, added Smith.

"A land matcher might not be able to go out and visit someone's farm or meet with farmers and land owners in the Sea to Sky, but they can absolutely call us," said Smith.

You can learn more about the Young Agrarians here: youngagrarians.org.

And if you can happen to have some extra property you would like to see put to good use by a farmer, Smith encourages you to reach out directly to her at land@youngagrarians.org.

For the original article, go here.

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