The Poudre Valley Community Farms Story
How do we keep farmland in the hands of farmers? The USDA estimates that 70 percent of U.S. farmland will change hands in the next 20 years. For each American farmer younger than 25, five are over 75 years old. As land increases in value and current farmers consider retirement, they often find themselves selling their greatest asset—their farmland—to the highest bidder, rather than to a future generation of farmers. This means more land is converted into non-farm uses, forever removing it from production agriculture.
Imagine parcels of farmland owned by participating members of our community and then leased to farmers for local food production. By finding a way for community members to cooperatively purchase the land and then lease it to a new generation of farmers, we can create new opportunities for today’s young farmers and break the cycle of the “land rich, cash poor” farmer. This model not only facilitates farmland succession, but also promotes local food security and economic growth. More importantly, it is a clear win-win for farmers, the community, and our regional food system. This is the purpose of Poudre Valley Community Farms, A Land Cooperative (PVCF).
Vision: To create enduring working landscapes and viable agricultural livelihoods in Northern Colorado that conserve natural resources, preserve cultural and agricultural heritage, promote regional food security, and stimulate the local economy.
Mission: To cultivate innovative models for community ownership of land and water for food production by purchasing threatened agricultural land and providing long-term access to farmers and ranchers.
Poudre Valley Community Farms is, at its core, a land cooperative. By harnessing the power of member-owner investment and combining it with creative financing techniques such as conservation easements and community partnerships the cooperative buys and owns farmland. The cooperative leases long-term to local farmers and ranchers at competitive market rates.
A Multi-stakeholder Cooperative
The vehicle for achieving PVCF’s mission is a multi-stakeholder cooperative. First, let’s consider the more familiar but less important parts of PVCF. Think of a traditional consumer cooperative, like a food co-op, where consumers pool their buying power to purchase products at better prices. Now think of a traditional producer cooperative, like most farmers’ cooperatives, that pool buying power and access to distributors and consumers to benefit the producer. Now put the two together and you have an understanding of the LESS important parts of PVCF.
Now consider the third, and MOST important, part of the PVCF cooperative model. The consumers and the producers contribute capital through their membership dues which is used to purchase farmland. The long-term access to farmland to produce food is the key to this land cooperative model.
PVCF will purchase its first property in the first quarter of 2016. The conservation easement and fundraising processes are well underway.