Finding affordable land for purchase or long-term lease can be a significant challenge. However, there are several options which may help you find the land you need to farm. Whether finding the attributes of land- water, drainage zoning, or resources that help connect farmers with available land, through listings or funding programs, many resources are available. In King County, there are five designated Agriculture Production Districts and more than 14,600 acres of preserved farmland by King County’s Farmland Preservation Program.
Washington FarmLink is a program that connects farmers with land. FarmLink is a membership program that hosts information about available land and about farmers seeking land. They have numerous resources and expertise to assist farmers:
- Past FarmLink workshops online
- Map of Available Farmland
- Farmers Seeking Land
- Resources webpage
- Farmland Changing Hands case studies of innovative land transfers
- En español: Tierras Agricolas Cambiando De Manos
- The Washington State Housing Finance Commission’s Beginning Farmer Rancher Loan Program, in partnership with Northwest Farm Credit Services, provides low-interest loans to help new farmers acquire land at low interest rates. Loans from this program are limited to $517,700. However, financing can be combined with loans, grants or other funds for larger projects.
- USDA Farm Services Agency (FSA) provides guaranteed and direct loans to assist farmers in acquiring land. Under a guaranteed loan, a commercial lender makes and services the loan, and FSA guarantees it against loss up to a maximum of 95 percent of loan value. For those not yet meeting the qualifications for a loan guarantee from a commercial lender, FSA also makes direct loans, which are serviced by an FSA Official and may be used to purchase or enlarge a new farm or ranch.
- Farm Bureau Bank provides mortgage, equipment, and vehicle loans as well as small business services.
Farm Incubator and Education Training Programs
- The Washington State University (WSU) Cultivating Success™ Program offers a series of courses that provide beginning and existing farmers with the planning and decision-making tools, production skills and support necessary to develop a sustainable small acreage farm. The WSU Cooperative Extension certificate program is offered in many counties in the area and also offers great networking opportunities.
- SnoValley Tilth’s Experience Farming Project is for individuals with experience working on farms and ready to start their own farm business. Participants have access to land, infrastructure, equipment, and farm mentors. Production must follow certified naturally grown guidelines. Farms have the option to participate in a shared booth at the Carnation Farmers Market and an on-farm farm stand.
- Seattle Tilth Farm Works is a farm incubator training program for limited resource, immigrant, refugee and veterans interested in starting small farm businesses. Land base, infrastructure, marketing outlets and on-going technical assistance are available to farm participants. Certified organic practices are taught and used at farm sites.
- Sustainable Agriculture Education (SAgE) Program at Seattle Central Community College offers two associate degrees in sustainable agriculture.
Bioregional Food Systems course topics include:
- Agroecology: An Ecological Approach to Agriculture
- Soil Science and Conservation
- Ecological Urban Food Production [or]
- Agroforestry: Trees in Agricultural Landscapes
- Food Systems Analysis [or]
- Food Culture and Politics
- Bioregional Food Systems Careers Seminar
- Internship, Practicum, or Research in Sustainable Agriculture
- Highline Community College’s Urban Agriculture Certificate Program explores the details of organic urban agricultural systems both at a practical application level and through the lens of sustainability and food justice.
Farm Management Plans and Soil Testing
- The King Conservation District (KCD) offers:
- Farm management planning for natural resource conservation.
- Cost share programs to implement resource conservation.
- Basic soil tests (up to five free) for all residents and municipalities in King County. The District’s soil testing program covers commercial farms, pastures, parks, home yards, and community gardens.
- Equipment Loan Services:
- KCD Agricultural Drainage Program
- Dairy Nutrient Management Planning
- Manure Match
- Washington FarmLink works with both farmland owners and farm seekers on the topic of leasing; provides a number of leasing templates; and provides technical assistance in assessing leasing options.
- Land for Good’s Toolbox for Leasing Farmland contains a variety of resources, including sample lease agreements, for both landowners and land seekers on how to lease and/or find land.
- Finding, Assessing, and Securing Farmland: A Plain Language Guide from the New Entry Sustainable Farming Project. This guide is written for beginning farmers who are looking for land to start a farm business. This guide will help them understand the process of locating and securing farmland for their business.
- Acquiring Your Farm is an online course created by Land for Good that takes farm seekers through a comprehensive, step-by-step investigation of options and strategies focused on access to land and farms. There are 7 topic modules. Each topic is loaded with content, plus stories and resources. Every topic includes tools, worksheets and checklists. The course is designed so that each learner can come away with a customized farm acquisition action plan.
- Ag Lease 101 helps both land owners and land operators learn about alternative lease arrangements and includes sample written lease agreements. Ag Lease 101 was created by and is maintained by the North Central Farm Management Extension Committee.
- The Landowner’s Guide to Sustainable Farm Leasing, produced by Drake University Agricultural Law Center, was developed to assist landowners in understanding their role as a landlord and a steward of the land, encourage open communication between landowner and tenant, and ultimately aid in the development of a lease agreement that is beneficial to the landowner, the farmer, the community, and the land.
- To learn more about the soil types on your property, or the property you seek to acquire, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Web Soil Survey (WSS) is a useful tool that provides soil data, landscape characteristics and other information produced by the National Cooperative Soil Survey.
Land Listing Services
- Land and Farm is a national real estate listing site that allows the user to search for farms for sale by price, number of acres, and location.
- Capital Press is the West Coast’s Ag Weekly and features farm real estate from California to Washington.
Watch past FarmLink workshops online via webcast, recorded in partnership with WSU. You can find workshops on topics ranging from:
- resources for beginning farmers
- alternative farmland purchasing options
- land access
- ground rules for leasing farmland