October 6, 2022
After many years serving on our Board, we are thrilled to share that Stacy Brenner has stepped down from her role on the Board to join us on staff as our Senior Advisor for Farmland Access! In this role, Stacy joins our Farmland Protection and Farmland Access team to focus on building pathways to increase access to farmland for new and emerging farmers, and for established farmers looking to expand or relocate.
Maine Farmland Trust has been highly successful in its focus on protecting over 68,000 acres of farmland through its high-volume farmland protection model, leveraging agricultural easements to conserve farmland in perpetuity and as a tool to keep farmland more affordable. Within the last ten years, the economic landscape has changed significantly: skyrocketing land prices, high demand for farmland with low inventory on the market, and the rising costs of farming inputs have made it increasingly challenging for beginning and emerging farmers to purchase farmland at affordable prices. While agricultural easements can lessen some of this burden, Maine Farmland Trust recognizes that especially in this current landscape, more must be done to strengthen farmland access and affordability.
We are excited to welcome Stacy into her role as Senior Advisor for Farmland Access, where she will explore farmland access models beyond the traditional bounds of direct land ownership to help more farmers find cultivable land to establish their operations. As a Board Member, she has spent many years exploring and advocating for alternative access models, and brings significant farming experience herself, which makes her the ideal candidate to join the staff at Maine Farmland Trust to advance this work. Stacy also currently serves as a State Senator.
“Farming is hard enough to break into as a profession,” says Stacy. “Access to land should not stand in the way as a barrier. I see my role as disrupting the existing paradigm around farmland ownership in order to bring more farmers onto more land in Maine. My goal is to achieve a level playing field for farmers who don’t have the capacity for traditional land ownership models.”
As a farmer herself, Stacy encountered challenges accessing farmland when she and her husband and business partner John Bliss first began their diversified vegetable and flower farm twenty years ago. She has since built a thriving farm business, Broadturn Farm, which she operates on a property owned by the Scarborough Land Trust through a 99-year lease. Stacy envisions a future that offers viable pathways for farmers to establish their businesses without having to accumulate the capital needed to purchase a farm, and connect farm businesses with available and affordable land that meets their needs as their businesses grow or change.
Says Adam Bishop, Director of Farmland Protection and Farmland Access at Maine Farmland Trust: “We are thrilled to add Stacy’s wisdom and passion to our team. The wide range of experience she brings to the position will be critical as we seek to build new and creative solutions to advance our work conserving Maine’s farmland and ensuring equitable land access opportunities for all farmers.”
Beyond easements, Maine Farmland Trust already has a track record of success at working with farmers to make farmland purchases more affordable: through our Buy/Protect/Sell program, we purchase farmland on the market and facilitated its resale at agricultural value to incoming farmers. Also, through our long-established FarmLink program which connects farm-seekers with landowners looking to transfer their land, we have facilitated more than 245 matches between farmers, enabling farmers to lease, work, or purchase farm properties depending on their needs.
Stacy and other farmland protection staff at Maine Farmland Trust are especially interested in collaborating with and supporting organizations that use alternative ownership structures. For example, Maine Farmland Trust partnered with the Somali Bantu farmers at New Roots Cooperative in Lewiston five years ago to help them find farmland to establish their operations, purchased the property and protected it with an easement, and resold it to the farmers through a lease-to-purchase model, allowing them the time they needed to raise the funds to purchase the property, which they completed in January of this year. With the addition of Stacy to our Farmland Protection and Farmland Access team, Maine Farmland Trust will continue to generate even more opportunities for farm-seekers to cultivate Maine’s farmland.