Making Efforts Now to Save Farmland for the Future (2024)


Kentucky Farmland Transition Initiative to help farmers transition acreage to new generations


The Adams Family farms in Hardin, Hart, and LaRue Counties. (Kentucky Farm Bureau)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Matt and Molly Adams own a diverse farming operation in sections of Hardin, Hart, and LaRue counties that includes row crops of corn, soybeans and winter wheat, along with different mixes of grasses and alfalfa hay, and a beef cattle herd.

While their farm is typical of many of the family operations that can be found throughout the state, their story is somewhat atypical when referring to how their farm became their home.

“We’re first-generation here and our home farm belonged to a gentleman I considered a second grandpa to me,” Matt said. “He kind of got me started farming and I partnered with him when I was in high school and college. When he passed away, right before I graduated from Western Kentucky University, I was able to buy the farm and have been here since.”

Molly said that giving Matt a chance to take over the farm, was a Godsend.

“When [the farmer] passed away, he had many family members who could have had the opportunity to take the farm themselves or sell it, but he wanted to give Matt a chance,” she said. “And all we were riding on was that chance.”

Matt said when it comes to young farm families, sometimes all they need is an opportunity to get started.

“We always say we were never really given anything in this operation other than just an opportunity, and that’s very important, especially for first-generation and even previous generations to come back to the farm,” he said.

The Adamses’ story could be considered the exception as opposed to the rule when it comes to new farmers taking over an existing operation or starting from scratch.

Because of a steady decline in the number of farms in this state and a decrease in farmed acreage over the last several years, Kentucky Farm Bureau (KFB) is launching the Kentucky Farmland Transition Initiative (KFTI) to determine ways to help farmers transition acreage to new generations of farmers, connect assistance providers during that process, and develop policy that will help keep production agriculture at the forefront of farmland transition.

KFB President Eddie Melton said the state’s farm families are looking for ways to keep farmland in active production, and this initiative will help support them in that goal.

“With the loss of land, we are seeing in the Commonwealth, now is the time to start these conversations and find ways to get these families connected to the resources they need,” Melton continued. “There are already several great resources available in Kentucky that we want to make sure people know about, but, through this Initiative, we will also engage directly with those involved in transition planning to see what else is needed and could be developed.”

Aleta Botts, the KFTI Project Coordinator, is helping KFB Launch this effort. She said the initiative is critical to a successful future for farm families and Kentucky’s rural communities.

“When farmland goes out of production, it just doesn’t come back,” she said. “Or if farmland is bought by investors outside of the rural community of which it is a part, the farmers, who have lived there, are no longer around to be a vital part of that community. If we care about that, we have to make sure that farm families have access to the tools they need to plan a better outcome not just for their farm, but for the benefit of the places they call home.”

The KFTI launches with three main objectives: 1) increase public education about and involvement in farmland transition; 2) gather and provide technical assistance and localized resources to assist families who desire to transition farmland; and 3) pursue state and federal policy development that will help keep production agriculture at the forefront of farmland transition and ease common burdens associated with that process.

The recently released USDA Census of Agriculture highlights the challenge. Kentucky saw the loss of 17,000 farms and 1.4 million acres of farmland in the last 20 years. With additional resources and planning, the expectation of the KFTI is that more families will be able to put in place plans to keep farmland in active production and keep farmers at the center of that effort.

The University of Kentucky Martin-Gatton College of Agriculture, Food, and Environment (UKMGCAFE) and the Kentucky Department of Agriculture (KDA) are part of the network of ag organizations working with KFB to move the initiative forward.

UKMGCAFE Dean Nancy Cox said recognizing the need to keep valuable farmland in agricultural production is a must for generations to come whether they are farmers or not.

“It is imperative that we keep our farms across this state and throughout the country sustainable for farmers of the future, who will face increasing competition for land and increasing scrutiny from consumers,” she said. “Making the transition of farmland from one owner to the next deserves a lot of study to support both farm families and consumers.”

KDA Commissioner Jonathan Shell said, as a fifth-generation farmer, he understands the need to keep existing farmland in production now to guarantee there will be farms for the future.

“For me, there was never a doubt that I wanted to continue the farming tradition my ancestors began so many years ago,” he said. “I know there are countless individuals and families who want the same. The more we can do now to help them make their wishes a reality, the better chance we have of saving our farmland for generations to come.”

Melton added that it will take a collaborative effort by KFTI network organizations to move this initiative forward.

“We recognize that our objectives for this initiative will not be reached overnight but rather by continued educational processes, the utilization of technical assistance, and the development of policy at all levels,” he said. “Having organizations like UK and KDA on board from the very beginning will help ensure that success can indeed be achieved by working together for a common goal.”

Finding that special mentor proved to be the catalyst that began a new tradition for the Adamses and is but one of many ways to be explored as part of this initiative, Melton emphasized.

“We want more success stories such as Matt and Molly Adams so we must do all we can to find and develop ways to make the transition of farmland much less an ordeal and more like an opportunity,” he said. “In doing so, it will ultimately encourage new farmers to remain on, or come to a farming operation they can one day hand off to their next generation.”

For more information, go to the KFTI website at

— Kentucky Farm Bureau


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Making Efforts Now to Save Farmland for the Future (2024)
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