New Farmer Toolbox: Land Access

Please note: this project was supported by the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program from 2010 to 2013.

Lack of access to affordable land is often cited as one of the top barriers for aspiring farmers in beginning their new farm enterprises. One of the best ways to learn strategies for accessing land as a new farmer is to talk with other beginning farmers about how they acquired their land.

There are resources in North Carolina to help you get started in farming that also provide a land-base, at least temporarily while you hone your production and marketing skills. These are called incubator farms. Some are formal entities (those noted below) while others are existing farms where experienced farmers allow a beginning farmer access to a portion of their land for a period of time.

There are also resources to help you look for farmland, but most are currently available at a national level rather than a statewide or county level.

Helpful resources for getting started

Incubator Farms

In a 2010 survey, North Carolina farmers and educators identified access to land as one of the top challenges facing new farmers in North Carolina. Incubator farms provide a low-cost opportunity for an emerging farmer to gain access to land (usually small parcels of land initially), start a small farm enterprise, test their skills and interests, and start building their markets.

There are many examples of farmer training programs across the state. Incubator farms generally also incorporate a training / technical assistance program as well as offering land-based farm enterprise establishment opportunities. The list below represents formal incubator farm programs in the state. Some small farmers across the state have also been incubating new farmers on their own properties by offering new farmers use of portions of their farm land for short periods of time to initiate new farm enterprises.


A. Elma C. Lomax Incubator Farm
Cabarrus County, NC

B. PLANT Farm Enterprise Incubator
Orange County, NC

C. Transplanting Traditions
Orange County, NC

D. Maverick Farm’s Farm Incubator and Grower Program
Ashe/Watauga County vicinity

E. Onslow County Incubator Farm
Onslow County, NC

F. Inter-faith Food Shuttle Incubator Farm
Raleigh, NC

Internships & Apprenticeships

Carolina Farm Stewardship Program
Internship Referral Service (North and South Carolina)

Organic Growers School
Apprentice Link (NC and neighboring states)

Helpful resources for finding farmland

(listed alphabetically)

Center for Rural Affairs (national focus)
Land Link Services

Greenhorns (national focus)
Access to Land

International Farm Transition Network (national focus)
Land Linkage by State

Land Stewardship Project (national focus)
Farm Beginnings Program

NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
Agricultural Review Classifieds – Farmland for Sale

Northeast Beginning Farmers Project
Land Access; Options and Strategies – a recorded webinar
Project’s webinars are archived at

Orange County Farms
Farm Link (national focus)
National Clearinghouse information from the USDA/NIFA Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development Program.
Accessing Land

Publications with North Carolina Relevance

ATTRA: the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service
Finding Land to Farm: Six Ways to Secure Farmland
Encontrando Tierra para Trabajar: Seis Maneras de Asegurar Tu Terreno Agrícola
Many other ATTRA publications useful to beginning farmers are available at prices ranging from $1.95 to $5.95, or through a $50 annual membership that provides unlimited access.

Branan, Andrew (editor). 2011 ed. Planning the Future of Your Farm: A Workbook on Farm Transfer Decisions.
This workbook focuses on educating farmers and rural landowners on the tools and issues related to the transfer of farm operations and land with the goal of keeping both in production. Print edition available by request to

Sample Leases, Contracts, and Agreements
The following sample leases are considered informational only. It is important for you to consult your own attorney on any lease agreement.

Boulder County, Colorado
Leasing Boulder County Parks and Open Space Ag Land – see Generic Lease Agreement

Lease Agreements

Northeast Ohio, Countryside Conservancy
Cuyahoga Valley National Park Model Lease for Countryside Initiative Program

Orange County, NC
Collection of Sample Leases (scroll to bottom of webpage)

New Entry Sustainable Farming Project
Sample Leases
Leases, Contracts, and Agreements

Other Resources

Iowa Women’s Agriculture Network
Taking Charge of Your Farm’s Future: A Toolkit for Ag Women

USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)
Web Soil Survey
Course-level data that can be used as a starting point for understanding soil types and properties on farmland.

This project was supported by the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, grant #2010-49400-21733. To learn more about this program, and to find more resources for beginning farmers, please visit