Rapidly expanding demand for local and sustainable foods, especially across metro regions, provides an opportunity to grow America’s food supply in a unique way. We need new approaches to conserve farmland and support the next generation of American farmers.

Our Working Farms Fund takes an innovative approach to growing our food future with three critical priorities:

  1. Protecting important farmland from fragmentation and development
  2. Supporting the expansion of next-generation farm business through land access
  3. Scaling local food supply to meet growing demand in large metro areas.

Our Role

Working Farms Fund is a sustainable revolving fund that acquires and permanently protects farmland, transitioning ownership to next generation farmers and the farm businesses that will scale our local food system. This self-sustaining model allows dollars to revolve into future farm acquisitions, leverages public funding for long-term conservation outcomes, and amplifies the scope and collective impact of investments in the local food systems.

“We will be working with a large number of partners to go out and purchase small to mid-size farms that are under threat of being lost to development. We’ll match a farmer to that site and secure the funds to purchase a conservation easement. It means that that land will be restricted from development and protected as a farm forever. It also means that it will lower the ultimate purchase price for the farmer and grow our local food system in a way that can be a model for the rest of the country.” – Stacy Funderburke, The Conservation Fund


Why This Project Matters

In the past several years, the agriculture industry has seen two positive trends: an increase in farmers under the age of 35 and a 9% growth in demand for local-produce in urban areas. However, development pressure on quality farmland outside our cities is at an all-time high. It is critical that we support our future farmers as they expand their farm business and ultimately supply the growing demand for local and sustainable food.

“When I was growing up here in Morgan County, there were 150 some odd dairies. Today there are eight. We’ve lost most of the agriculture that was here. No one has stepped up yet and figured out how do we not be a part of this industrial food system and still farm.” – Keith Kelly, Multi-generational farmer, owner of Farmview Market in Madison, GA

“You’re always being challenged by mother nature or markets. There’s always something to learn out here. Growing up in Atlanta, you want to be close to home, you want to feed the people you’ve been around the most. In order to scale up, there’s going to have to be a lot of capital put into the farm. Coming in at 24, most people at this age have not built the capital to have access to land.” – Demetrius Milling, next-generation farmer

Working Farms Fund demonstrates how the conservation of working lands can bring together the best of environmental and economic interests to support thriving local communities. By working alongside farmers, we ensure that lands remain working and in sustainable management, driving economic growth into the future.

“If we don’t have resources in place to support new and beginning, particularly our small growers, the farming sector will become more monopolized. Without resources to new, beginning and smaller farmers, that Big-Ag footprint will just continue to expand.” – Rodney Brooks, USDA Beginning Farmer Regional Coordinator

“Increased food access is a problem in every county in the state of Georgia. The Working Farms Fund will help those farmers in that sweat spot – ready to make the leap from farmers market sales to wholesale markets.” – Michael Wall, Director of Farmer Services at Georgia Organics

Learn more

Places We Work: Georgia