Giving Ground: How Land Access Empowers New Farmers

Young farmers Sam Bosco and Simone Lackey are entering into
a land agreement with Giving Ground Farm this year.

by Devon Van Noble

It is our pleasure to share with you some wonderful news about connections being made between new farmers and landowners in the Groundswell community.

Dedicated young farmers and Sam Bosco and his partner Simone Lackey have begun preparing for their first season at Giving Ground Farm with Betti and Joe Lambro in Hector, New York. Other friends in the area, Aaron Munzer and Kara Cusolito have launched Plowbreak Farm on land leased from Daryl and Suzanne Anderson. These types of land sharing arrangements are important opportunities for beginning farmers, who might not otherwise have access to farmland on which to learn and grow.

We are truly grateful for the strength of the small- and medium- scale farmers in the region that bring so much bounty to this area. In addition to feeding us, these producers have garnered invaluable knowledge about the land and life here. Their knowledge, along with new land opportunities, are essential ingredients for establishing the next generation of producers. By continuing to leverage these opportunities as a community, we can do a lot to support the preservation of local agricultural knowledge through the new farmers who carry on the traditions, and adapt them.

Today new farmers come up against enormous financial barriers to land ownership. The transition of resources from generation to generation has not been a historically equitable process. Many communities have been largely denied access to agricultural resources, especially land. Today, when land transfer happens, it often passes down through close relationships, which maintains the status quo of what kinds of people own land. New farmers, many of whom do not have farming families, often start out by renting land through short-term leases before they either are able to buy land or enter a long-term agreement.

It’s important to Groundswell that all who wish to become farmers have access to land. To that end, Groundswell will be making leasing opportunities available through our Farm Enterprise Incubator in 2013. We are now posting land opportunities on the Groundswell website and hope to increase land linking support that could facilitate connections for both farm leases, and especially long-term land transfers, in the future. The Farm Enterprise Incubator will ensure that the leases are made available to individuals from socially-disadvantaged and limited resource backgrounds, especially people of color and first-generation Americans. But this is only the beginning; it is extremely important that land resources everywhere are shared equitably.

We look to enterprises like Giving Ground and Plowbreak Farm for lessons they can teach us about how young farmers secure access to land on which to build their livelihoods.

About Giving Ground Farm


Giving Ground Farm is a 105-acre land-based community in Hector, New York. The founding members, Betti and Joe Lambro, had been laying out the vision for this community for about 5 years before it started. The vision: a group of 4 to 10 households that live and learn communally, and share in ownership of the land. Although Giving Ground Farm is the first business to be launched, the vision is that the land will be home to multiple land-based enterprises that generate income. In 2012, Giving Ground Farm aims to serve 40 CSA members, and hopes to reach all the members from hyper-local markets surrounding them right in Hector.

It all began when Betti Lambro contacted Groundswell, explaining that she and her husband Joe had just bought land to start their home and farm, and they were interested in finding some folks who wanted to either work or live at Giving Ground as the farm grew. Sam Bosco and his partner Simone Lackey learned of this opportunity through Groundswell, started talking to Betti and Joe last November and first met them in January. After having considered a co-ownership possibility with another group in Danby, Sam and Simone realized that they would prefer taking a slower, lower-risk entry to the land and relationships that Giving Ground offered. Through many dinner meetings and conversations over the past months, Betti and Joe had laid out very clear plans for creating both a productive CSA that thrived on the community farm dynamic. By February, Sam and Simone made plans to move out to Giving Ground Farm and work there full time in the 2012 season.

The 2012 Season at Giving Ground Farm


Although the group’s intention is to forge relationships as long-term farming partners, the agreement is that 2012 will serve as an exploration year. Sam and Simone say that this trial period will help to fulfill some of their short-term goals such as build relationships, learn what they have to offer Giving Ground and share it, develop a clear vision of their enterprises, and write a formal lease. Currently they are working through the dynamic between several different roles, being farm interns, farm partners, and community members at once. Those roles are expected to develop and solidify over time.

Sam and Simone will be assisting in the launch of the Giving Ground CSA this year. Joe Lambro will be managing crops for the CSA, and Sam and Simone will be managing their first poultry project with a flock of 50 laying hens. This microenterprise will provide eggs for the CSA shares, household supply, and for market. They have been encouraged to be creative in developing any other enterprises they could manage at Giving Ground, and this year they are considering options like herb production for medicinal teas, or getting a nursery license in order to sell potted plants and woven baskets.

We are extremely pleased for Sam, Simone, Betti, Joe, and Giving Ground. Congratulations!