DES MOINES, Iowa – A group promoting organic, sustainable farming wants to make it easier for younger people to enter the industry across the state.
The Sustainable Iowa Land Trust, or SILT, announced a new initiative Wednesday allowing current farmers and landowners to donate their property to a land trust aimed at helping younger farmers start a business “without paying an arm and a leg.”
SILT founder, Suzan Erem, says Iowa imports 90 percent of its edible food, and she thinks the state should grow more of its own.
“Meanwhile, our young people want to farm. But volatile land prices, pushed up by development on one side, and commodity corn prices on the other, make it impossible,” she said. “They will give up. They will go away. And I don’t think that’s good for Iowa, and neither do the leaders of SILT.”
Wednesday, SILT called on Iowa farmers who don’t have a long-term plan for their land once they retire to donate that land to the SILT land trust. SILT will own the land, but bring young farmers onto it to start their own businesses. While the farmers won’t have to share any profits with SILT, they will have to abide by whatever agreements were made about the usage of the land when it came under SILT ownership (for instance, a stipulation that no GMO-crops be produced on the land.)
In addition to any donated land SILT gets from farmers, the organization also received a $20,000 interest-free loan from Slow Money National Gathering to begin adding farms to its conservation initiative.