Farmland Conservation & Estate Planning Toolkit

This Toolkit contains resources in the following categories. Note: Some resources appear in multiple categories.

Do you have a resource to add to this Toolkit? Please contact us!

State of Farmland in CA

An overview of the issues and solutions surrounding California farmland and agriculture.


Source: CalCAN | Type: Reference
Current and emerging threats to CA farmland, strategies to curb greenhouse gas emissions, and farmland protection programs and policies to prevent urban sprawl.


Source: UC Agricultural Issues Center | Type: Reference
Comprehensive report discussing the complexity of CA land and agriculture, including details of land use patterns, urban sprawl, land ownership, and size distribution of CA farms.


Source: CA Dept. of Conservation | Type: Reference
Interactive database with maps, reports and statistical data on CA agricultural land, including loss of farmland, conversion of farmland and land use trends in the past 30 years.  This program is in need of funding.


Source: American Farmland Trust | Type: Reference
Current land use policies in the San Joaquin Valley and a new framework to prevent farmland loss on the urban edge and in rural residential areas.


Source: American Farmland Trust | Type: Reference
A 2008 study of the San Francisco foodshed outlining distribution and consumption trends within a 100-mile radius.


Source: SAGE, American Farmland Trust, Greenbelt Alliance | Type: Reference
A 2011 study of agriculture in eight Bay Area counties, including the challenges and opportunities of land conservation, economic development, and rising land prices.


Source: FarmsReach | Type: Info Sheet
Conference recap, including an overview of CA agriculture and farmland protection, the defunded Williamson Act, using conservation easements as a protection tool, current obstacles and strategy recommendations for the future.

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Farmland Access

Resources to find farmland available for rent or purchase across CA, and better understand lease agreements and ownership options.


Source: New Entry Sustainable Farming Project | Type: Reference
Guide to locating and securing farmland, including definitions and checklists on types of lease agreements, legal considerations, and negotiating strategies.


Source: ATTRA | Type: Reference
Overview of land leasing and ownership options, including a cash lease, long-term lease, and lease to buy.


Source: Land Access Project | Type: Reference
Strategies to increase land access to beginning farmers, such as encouraging private landowners, promoting government programs, and engaging private investors.


Source: Land for Good | Type: Reference
Guide for non-farmers to make their land available for agriculture, including information on farmer-landowner relation strategies, understanding your land production potential, and creating a lease agreement.


Source: Land for Good | Type: Reference
A comprehensive, free online course providing a range of worksheets, case studies, activities and tools to help new farmers build an action plan to secure farmland.


Source: Equity Trust | Type: Reference
Strategies to utilize your CSA members and community to help finance a farmland purchase.


Source: CA FarmLink | Type: Reference
Online database listing farms for sale, lease or available for other partnership agreements in CA; for farmers with 2+ years of experience.


Type: Reference
Online database listing farms and farmland for sale, auction, lease, and foreclosed farms across the US.


Source: Land Stewardship Project | Type: Reference
Online database listing farms for sale, lease or available for other partnership agreements in the Upper Midwest.


Source: Moses Organic | Type: Reference
Online database listing farms and farmland for sale, auction, lease, and foreclosed farms across the US.


Source: National Young Farmers Coalition | Type: Reference
Guide to purchasing farmland that has conservation easements, including easement basics, land search strategy, different types of easements and legal language, communicating and negotiating with land trusts, and common timelines.

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Estate/Succession Planning

Be smart and plan ahead for the future of your land and business with these resources on passing your farm on to future generations.


Source: State Bar of CA | Type: Reference
Basics to understanding estate planning, including taxes, trustees and creating a will.


Source: USDA, CA FarmLink, CLBL & UCCE | Type: Reference
Comprehensive guidebook detailing the succession planning process through a compilation of industry and academic articles, resources and worksheets.


Source: British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture | Type: Checklist
Steps for families to take, including collecting and organizing financial paperwork, discussing the implications of the financial situation, and setting future goals.


Source: Ontario Ministry of Agriculture | Type: Info Sheet
Tough questions to ask yourself, and important considerations to make during the succession planning process.


Source: Ag Ventures | Type: Reference
Guide to assess and evaluate the risks that your business may face, including death, disability, disaster, divorce and disagreement.


Source: MSU | Type: Reference
Emphasizes the interdependence of family and business in the succession planning process, including a number of worksheets on setting goals and communication.


Source: Land for Good | Type: Reference
For the incoming farmer, suggestions and strategies to begin the process of a successful farm transfer from the current farmer to the next generation.

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Conservation Easements

Understand the benefits and drawbacks of selling development rights to your land, opportunities and risks, and ways to work with land trusts and State-funded conservation programs.


Source: CA Dept. of Conservation | Type: Info Sheet
Basic overview, including what they are, how they affect taxes, and the process of placing one on your land.


Source: American Farmland Trust | Type: Info Sheet
Concise overview of the tools and techniques state and local governments use to protect farmland, including agricultural protection zoning, cluster zoning in residential areas, and conservation easements.


Source: Land Trust Alliance | Type: Info Sheet
Overview and advantages of working with land trusts to fund your conservation easement, and the steps in the process of working with one.


Source: Marin Agricultural Land Trust | Type: Reference
Familiarize yourself with the language and format of a land conservation easement document, with this sample from Marin County, CA.


Source: UC Agricultural Issues Center | Type: Reference
Survey of 46 landowners in Northern CA detailing their experiences with conservation easements, including motivations, negotiations with land trusts, and perceptions about program success.


Source: Global Food & Agriculture | Type: Reference
Innovative tools to further preserve agricultural land when land value has surpassed agricultural productivity value, such as creating easements that exclude value of residents and infrastructure from the total value of the land.


Type: Reference
Basics of the CA State easement program, including grant application details, sample easement documents, and recent and past funded projects.


Source: CalCAN | Type: Reference
Current and emerging threats to CA farmland, strategies to curb greenhouse gas emissions and farmland protection programs and policies to prevent urban sprawl.


Source: American Farmland Trust | Type: Reference
Current land use policies in the San Joaquin Valley and a new framework to prevent farmland loss on the urban edge and in rural residential areas.


Source: FarmsReach | Type: Info Sheet
Conference recap, including an overview of CA agriculture and farmland protection, the defunded Williamson Act, using conservation easements as a protection tool, current obstacles and strategy recommendations for the future.


Source: National Young Farmers Coalition | Type: Reference
Report outlining the need for more conservation easement funding and more thoughtful strategy to ensure protected farmland is affordable for farmers and kept in production. Based on survey of over 200 land conservation professionals.

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Farmland Development & Climate Change

How the relationship between farmland development and climate change are impacting agriculture in CA, and the policies and programs to mitigate the effects.


Source: CDFA | Type: Reference
Current challenges specialty crop farmers face due to climate change, and strategies to better manage water, soil and pests through support and technology innovation.


Source: CalCAN | Type: Reference
Current and emerging threats to CA farmland, strategies to curb greenhouse gas emissions, and farmland protection programs and policies to prevent urban sprawl.


Source: CA State University, Sacramento | Type: Reference
CA State policies that help to retain agricultural land and reduce urban sprawl, and how this affects greenhouse gas emissions.


Source: CAFF | Type: Reference
A 2013 bill to establish permanent protection of one acre of farmland for every acre of farmland converted to residential, industrial and infrastructural development projects.


Source: CA Energy Commission | Type: Reference
Strategies to increase agricultural sustainability in rural landscapes, including crop and water planning models, statistics on countywide greenhouse gas emissions, and farmer perceptions of climate change.


Source: CalCAN | Type: Webinar
Discusses the multiple benefits of keeping nutrients such as carbon and nitrogen in balance, as well as practical methods for increasing soil organic matter.


Source: CalCAN | Type: Webinar
Discusses the climate benefits and additional environmental and economic benefits of on-farm biological diversity in farm products and in the landscape.


Source: CalCAN | Type: Webinar
Explores practices to help farmers bank more water in soils and catchments, and improve water use efficiency on the farm.

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Regional Planning & Policy

Resources about local land use planning policy, and agricultural zoning strategies used by regional governments to designate and protect specific areas of land for agricultural use.


Source: American Farmland Trust | Type: Reference
Current land use policies in the San Joaquin Valley and a new framework to prevent farmland loss on the urban edge and in rural residential areas.


Source: American Farmland Trust | Type: Info Sheet
Concise overview of the tools and techniques State and local governments use to protect farmland, including agricultural protection zoning, cluster zoning in residential areas, and conservation easements.


Source: CalCAN | Type: Reference
Current and emerging threats to CA farmland, strategies to curb greenhouse gas emissions, and farmland protection programs and policies to prevent urban sprawl.


Source: American Farmland Trust | Type: Info Sheet
The history, function, benefits and drawbacks of zoning to protect the agricultural land base.


Source: SAGE, American Farmland Trust, Greenbelt Alliance | Type: Reference
A 2011 study of agriculture in eight Bay Area counties, including the challenges and opportunities of land conservation, economic development, and rising land prices.


Source: Brentwood Agricultural Land Trust | Type: Webinar
Progress in protecting farmland on the edges of the SF Bay Area, recommendations to improve land use planning and conservation easements, and critical programs that need funding.


Source: American Farmland Trust | Type: Checklist
Guide to assessing how well your town is supporting agriculture and the protection of valuable farmland.


Source: FarmsReach | Type: Info Sheet
Conference recap, including an overview of CA agriculture and farmland protection, the defunded Williamson Act, using conservation easements as a protection tool, current obstacles and strategy recommendations for the future.

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Federal Programs & Policy

Government programs and current legislation aimed at protecting farmland through tax deductible and/or incentive programs for farmers and landowners. Also includes ways to take action and stay updated on current events.


Source: CA Dept. of Conservation | Type: Reference
Overview of this 1965 conservation program where private landowners contract with the city or county to restrict their land to agricultural use.  This program is currently unfunded.


Source: CAFF | Type: Info Sheet
A 2013 bill to establish permanent protection of one acre of farmland for every acre of farmland converted to residential, industrial and infrastructural development projects.


Source: American Farmland Trust | Type: Info Sheet
Overview of the federal program that provides matching funds to landowners to purchase conservation easements on their farm or ranch.


Type: Reference
A State easement program that provides grants to local government and non-profits to protect land that is under the threat to be developed for non-agricultural use.


Source: CalCAN | Type: Reference
Current and emerging threats to CA farmland, strategies to curb greenhouse gas emissions, and farmland protection programs and policies to prevent urban sprawl.


Source: FarmsReach | Type: Info Sheet
Conference recap, including an overview of CA agriculture and farmland protection, the defunded Williamson Act, using conservation easements as a protection tool, current obstacles and strategy recommendations for the future.

Tracking Action Alerts
Type: Petitions & Subscriptions

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CA High-Speed Rail Project

Resources about the controversial high-speed rail line (often referred to as the Rail Project) slated to be built through prime farmland in Central CA.


Source: American Farmland Trust | Type: Reference
The Rail Project’s business model, costs and threats to farmland, and risks of increased urban sprawl.


Source: CA High Speed Rail Authority | Type: Reference
A series of fact sheets advocating for the Rail Project, including benefits to CA citizens and the funding and finance model.


Source: Huffington Post | Type: Reference
News story covering delays and decreased public support for the Rail Project due to farmer lawsuits and soaring costs.


Source: CA High Speed Rail Authority | Type: Reference
Report discussing environmental impacts of the Rail Project, and feasible alternative rail lines from Merced to Fresno.


Source: CalCAN | Type: Reference
Current and emerging threats to CA farmland, strategies to curb greenhouse gas emissions, and farmland protection programs and policies to prevent urban sprawl.

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