Pitkin County Open Space and Trails (OST) is seeking public comment on its Open Space Agricultural Lease Policy.
The inability of beginning farmers and ranchers to access land has become one of the most salient issues in the agricultural industry today. In the next 5 years, only 2 percent of farmable land will be sold to a non-relative of the current landowners. Pitkin County Open Space and Trails has put forth efforts to help a new generation of farmers get started, as well as continue the viability of experienced producers, by affordably leasing land for agricultural and other land-based operations around the county.
Since the introduction of the agricultural lease bid process in 2014, interest in land leasing has increased immensely. OST's leased land now totals approximately 352 acres, up from 240 acres at the advent of the lease bid process, with individual lease areas ranging from 10 acres to 100 acres. In response to this increase in available land and an increased interest in leasing from Pitkin County, OST has drafted an updated Open Space Lease Policy to recognize the needs of beginning farmers and ranchers, and to protect the ability of all producers to thrive and provide local food for the community. In addition, the policy describes evaluation criteria to assist staff in selecting the most appropriate lessee, process steps, and increased oversight measures to ensure the proper stewardship of the agricultural leased ground.
The updated policy is now available to the general public for input (see the comment form below). Please find below a copy of the updated Agricultural Lease Bid Process and Policy, as well as a red-line copy of the updated policy that shows what has changed since its original adoption in 2014. It will be brought back for final approval by the Open Space and Trails Board this fall. The process will be in place by fall 2017 to ensure transparency and clarity in leasing land to ranchers and farmers. The public comment period will close Sept. 18th.