The demand for locally grown food is rapidly increasing in the Pittsburgh region. Rising costs of land make it difficult for farmers (particularly new farmers) to find farmland close to urban markets. To address these needs, the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy’s Farmland Access Initiative will acquire land to lease to local farmers.

During the next three years, the Conservancy (WPC) is working to acquire several local farms that are suitable for diverse, small-scale agricultural operations and are easily accessible to the Pittsburgh market. Once properties are acquired, WPC will lease them to local farmers.

Farmers who desire to lease properties can submit proposals to WPC’s Farmland Access Initiative. After evaluating these proposals, WPC will select farmers to lease each property based on the suitability of their proposal for the program. Local partners will provide a key role in assisting WPC in selecting tenants for the farms acquired. Long-term leases will be developed to ensure that the farmers can rely on the availability of land while they develop their farm operations.

Whole Farm Management Approach

WPC’s Farmland Access Initiative will offer a “whole farm” management approach, which provides holistic services to ensure the natural features of the property are protected while also maximizing agricultural productivity. Through this management approach, WPC will work with each farm to develop tailored plans to identify areas for future protection, such as stream buffers, wetlands and high quality habitat. WPC will also work with tenants to develop soil conservation plans for the agricultural portions of the property. WPC’s partners will be available to provide assistance with farmer education, marketing, business management and other aspects of operating a successful farm business.

Selling Your Agricultural Land

Do you own property that you believe would be a good fit for WPC’s Farmland Access Initiative? WPC can acquire properties through purchase or donation. Tax benefits may be possible for donation of property, or for properties sold at less than fair market value. WPC staff can discuss options with landowners who are interested in conveying land to WPC for this program. If you have a property that may be a good fit for WPC’s Farmland Access Initiative or if you want more information, please contact Shaun Fenlon at [email protected] or 412-586-2308.