If you enjoy locally grown organic fruit, vegetables, meats and dairy or shop at one of New Mexico’s 50-some farmers’ markets, you’re an important part of our state’s farming community and economy.
Nearly half of New Mexico’s farms are small properties of one to nine acres, representing a long tradition of family-owned lands. But many of these family farms are in trouble. Farming alone doesn’t pay the bills—most farmers have second jobs—and farmers generally are aging, with the majority in their 50s and 60s. For many, their family’s land is their primary asset, and they can’t retire without selling it to developers. Farmland is often the most attractive land to developers because it’s beautiful and green, has water and already has roads and utilities. All of this adds up to New Mexico losing about 4 percent of its already-scarce farmland per year, and the rate at which farmland is converted to housing and other development is accelerating.
The Santa Fe Conservation Trust (SFCT), in collaboration with other organizations and drawing on state financial incentives, can help. New Mexico offers financial incentives in the form of tax credits to farmland owners who volunteer to place some or all of their land into permanent conservation with a land trust. Under these agreements, farmers continue to own and work their land and can leave it to their children, sell it, or arrange other options. The landowners can use the tax credits to reduce their taxes or convert the incentives into cash. Through these agreements, precious small farms are protected from development, thereby benefiting all of us who appreciate New Mexico’s agricultural lands and the goods they produce.
Unfortunately, there are significant barriers to participation in the state’s conservation incentive program for small farmers. For example, the up-front costs of placing land into conservation with a land trust are considerable. Fortunately, with the help of the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market Institute and others, SFCT formed a statewide coalition of farming, legal, financial and land-trust organizations called the Small Agricultural Lands Conservation Initiative (SALCI) to address issues that prevent small farmers from benefiting from the state’s incentive program. Through SALCI, SFCT is developing a revolving fund to help cover the up-front costs. If you or another small farmer would like to discuss the possibility of taking advantage of these opportunities, contact SFCT at 505.989.7019 or email@example.com