There is no single clearinghouse for this information, and there are likely many more landowners seeking farmers than there are farmers seeking land to lease. A good starting place is to get really clear about what you’re offering. Describe in writing:

  1. Your land – size, location, type of soil, flat or hilly, a brief description of its recent history
  2. The infrastructure that would be included – any fences or irrigation in place? house or farm buildings?
  3. How long you are willing to lease it, and for what amount (ask your local Cooperative Extension about the going rate per acre for leasing farmland)
  4. An specific expectations or limitations you would place on the farmer – consider how you feel about public events, chemicals and management practices, appearance, livestock, etc. If you have strong feelings about any of these, include them in your description.

Several organizations in the Northeast have an interest in connecting farmers with land in their area, but most do it informally. Once you have a clear description of what you’re offering, try searching our service provider map for groups who work on land access issues. Contact them with a request to share your opportunity.

While it’s still tricky to negotiate, more and more farmers are finding that you don’t need to own land in order to farm. Owning farmland can be expensive and can make it much more difficult to develop a profitable enterprise. Leasing is one of many options. As the Greenhorns say in their Guide to Farming, in the search for land to farm, “charm, persistence and determination are your best allies.”

Consider the following examples of successful operations established by out-of-the-box thinkers:

  • In his book No-Risk Ranching (available from many libraries and most book retailers) farmer Greg Judy describes how he turned his farm around by developing a profitable business model based on raising beef cattle he doesn’t own on land he doesn’t own.  He also offers details and advice on approaching landowners and establishing successful leases.
  • Do you live in a city where land is scarce and expensive? Consider Rooftop Farms in Brooklyn, or the SPIN-farming model.
  • Incubator farms provide inexpensive land access in a central place, and often access to equipment and mentorship to help new farmers get started. The most well-known is the Intervale in Burlington, VT, but more are springing up around the Northeast. Check out the SEED Farm in PA and the Community Farm of Simsbury in CT.
  • You might be surprised to find out how many landowners would like to see their land be more productive, but don’t have a desire to farm it themselves. As a bonus, most states offer a reduction in property taxes on land that is in agricultural production, so once you learn the details in your state, you can use this as an incentive with landowners. Here’s one approach: 1) Find several pieces of land meeting your requirements for size, location, and soil type, 2) Go to your county Tax Assessors office to determine who owns them, 3) Send them a very polite letter expressing your interest in farming and inquiring about their willingness to lease their land, and 4) Follow up with a phone call a week or two later, to get their response. Many farmers have found land to buy OR lease using this method.

Leasing Assistance

Great care should be taken when establishing a lease, as there are many issues to address in writing between landowner and farmer, such as lease tenure, infrastructure development, and permitted uses.

For personalized assistance, Land for Good is an organization devoted to keeping Northeast farmland productive. They offer farm transfer planning and can assist with development of strong leases.The New England Small Farm Institute published Holding Ground: A Northeast Guide to Farmland Tenure and Stewardship, a book containing lease language, case studies, worksheets, and non-ownership tenure options.

Another nice publication on creative options for finding land from ATTRA (Appropriate Technology Transfer to Rural Areas) is available online here.

FarmLink Programs
Most Northeast states offer land-linking services. Most of these programs try to link retiring or exiting farmers with individuals interested in getting started in farming. They also offer counseling to guide the process, whether the farm is going to be sold from one party to another, leased, operated as a partnership, or organized as a management opportunity for the new farmer to gain experience and equity.

  • NY FarmLink
  • Pennsylvania FarmLink
  • LandLink Vermont
  • Maine FarmLink
  • New England LandLink
  • New Jersey FarmLink
  • Connecticut FarmLink
  • Land for Good

Other Local Organizations
Several non-profits listed on our Who Can Help map provide informal land-linking services. Contact organizations near you to find out if they can help you.

Cooperative Extension
Agricultural Educators in county extension offices may also be able to direct you to local opportunities for land access. Locate your county’s office and contact them to describe your land needs. If you’re in NY, find the Small/Beginning Farmer contact in your local Extension office here.

Farm Newspapers with Listing Farm Properties for Sale

  • Grassroots – The Voice of New York Farm Bureau – 800-342-4143
  • Country Folks – Lee Publications – 800-218-5586

Farm Real Estate Brokers*
While conventional real estate brokers list farms for sale, most active farms are considered commercial property and are listed by real estate agents specializing in farm transactions.

  • MLS Residential Search – The largest multiple listing service for residential real estate. Often contains small and medium farms.
  • Farm Credit East – Agricultural lender with an appraisal services, they are likely to know of farms for sale
  • Farm Service Agency Real Estate for Sale – Listing of homes and farms for sale by the Farm Service Agency, many available with low interest financing
  • – Rural property listing service
  • – Rural property listing service
  • United Country Real Estate – Rural real estate brokerage
  • Come Farm with Us – farm real estate listings in Northern and Central NY

*This listing of realtors is not intended to be complete, and listing does not imply endorsement by
Cornell Cooperative Extension or the Cornell Small Farms Program. Check with residents of the area near where you hope to farm to find realtors who specialize in farm property.

This issue is a major hurdle for beginning farmers, and a source of frustration for landowners seeking someone to use their land productively. Search the Who Can Help map and you may find a few organizations that are working informally on a county or region-wide basis to connect landseekers and landowners. Be sure to check in with your state FarmLink or LandLink office too – you can find these contacts on the Other Local Contacts page.

Also be sure to check out Accessing and Evaluating Land for information on land acquisition options, lease templates, and helpful resources.