Restoring Land to Farmers

In Chafee County, Colorado, where Buena Vista is located, David Lynch is working to create a program to link aging farmers to their younger counterparts in order to keep farmland in farming. That’s a great idea for that area, where a new development along the Arkansas River is pushing land prices way up.

This Denver Post article about the Chafee County Land Link program explains how losing the lease on his farm near Loveland (north of Denver) motivated Lynch to start Land Link.

Lynch’s idea is not new. There are Land Link farmers in California, Iowa, Virginia, Nebraska, and other states.

How is this restoration? Perhaps a better word would be “maintenance.” If we can keep land in farming, then we gain more time to reestablish local food networks. And farmland provides better habitat for animals than suburbia. Certainly Coloradans involved in farming see a need for the program.

“We see a tremendous need for the next generation of farmers to come along,” says Ben Rainbolt with the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, which represents 23,000 farming families in Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico. “Trying to hook these newcomers up with landowners is very important.”

The Land Link program could also help aging farmers who are abandoning their efforts simply because they can’t find help. Bill Gardiner with the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Salida fields calls weekly from older ranchers unable to handle needed work anymore.

“Keeping these farmers and ranchers employed is a good thing,” Gardiner says. “This program is a way to help some struggling families.”