On May 16th and 17th, the Virginia Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coalition (VBFRC) held two meetings at the Virginia Farm Bureau building near Richmond, VA. Farmers, service providers, and Coalition members gathered from all across the state to participate in a farm transfer training event and discuss the progress and future work of the Coalition.
The first meeting was a Farm Transfer Strategy and Networking Training planned by the land transfer action team formed at the Coalition meeting in October. We were pleased to have several individuals with experience in the area of land transfer join us for the training. Kathy Ruhf of Land For Good, a nationally recognized leader in farm entry, succession, and tenure, was the main speaker for the event. Kathy shared an overview of succession planning, how service providers in Virginia can increase their awareness of the intricacies involved when discussing farm succession, and how to make those conversations easier. Two attorneys, Andrew Branan (The Branan Law Firm, PLLC) and Mark Botkin (BotkinRose PLC), also shared some of their experiences in farm succession and discussed what farmers should do to develop a succession plan before talking to an attorney. Lastly, a panel of Virginia Cooperative Extension specialists, including Peter Callan, Gordon Groover, and Adam Downing, discussed their roles in extension as they relate to land access and what resources they have to offer for others to use. During the training, attendees took time to discuss what they are working on in the area of farm transfer and what resources they use to address the issue.
The second meeting was the VBFRC Statewide Gathering. These meetings are a way for Coalition members to hear about what is happening within the Coalition and make plans for future work. In the morning, attendees split into groups to discuss important topics relevant to reaching our objectives. These topics included: farmer mentoring, farmer-led innovation, health-based and assistive technology support for farmers, underserved farmer audiences, and understanding the needs of young farmers. In the afternoon, the action teams formed at our October Coalition meeting met to introduce new members to the work, set goals for the coming months, and identify what resources would be needed to move forward.
Both the Farm Transfer Strategy and Networking Training and the VBFRC Statewide Gathering were huge successes. As a result of the training, several service providers across Virginia have a better understanding of the many pieces involved in the discussion of farm transfer and are more prepared to have such a discussion with farmers and ranchers across Virginia. The VBFRC Statewide Gathering allowed for feedback to be provided on where and how the Coalition should focus its efforts and offered up a space for our action teams to continue with the work they are doing in their respective areas.