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unnamed 91Wes Medlock, New Farmer Network program specialist for New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service in San Juan County. Through New Farmer Network, Medlock is working to connect people with farmland in the Four Corners area with people wishing to farm to establish lease agreements to keep the land in production.FARMINGTON – Do you have land you want farmed in northwest New Mexico? Are you a farmer looking for land? We’re the matchmaker for you.

New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service in San Juan County has a new program, Northwest New Mexico New Farmer Network, that’s working to connect people with farmland to people wishing to farm.

“With the resources, technical assistance and support, we are here to navigate this process for both landowners and the land-seeking farmers,” said Bonnie Hopkins, NMSU Extension agricultural agent in San Juan County.

“Our new program specialist, Wes Medlock, will be the matchmaker to bring landowners and land-seeking farmers together,” Hopkins said. “One of his main focuses will be to develop meaningful and genuine relationships with landowners and the new farmers.”

Local food systems face several obstacles, such as aging farmer population, difficulties that new farmers have acquiring land and the assistance along the way to facilitate the leasing processes.

“These are just some of the challenges the New Farmer Network will serve to alleviate,” Medlock said. “Our mission is to break down the barriers between the farmers and the farm. Our goal is to facilitate 15 new farm lease agreements over the next two years by fostering communication between the landowner and the farmer and aggregating resources to aid in the leasing process.”

A user-friendly website is being developed for landowners to post their farmland or property acreage to advertise to new and transitioning farmers. Also on the website, the farmers can post what kind of land requirements they are looking for.

“Land leasing agreements can be complicated and time consuming,” Medlock said. “We’re here to help guide that process from developing the relationship between the two parties, all the way to signing the dotted line.”

While this program encourages all landowners and farmers to participate, the target audience for outreach will also include farmers from Native American and other minority groups, and farmers who are women or disabled veterans.

Medlock brings many years of experience in sustainable development to the project. He graduated from Appalachian State University with a degree in this area.

“Wes has a heart for food, farmers, and the land in which it grows,” said Hopkins. “He has been with many nonprofit and various food initiatives, including serving as vice president on the board of directors at Durango Natural Foods Cooperative to help provide a viable market for local farmers.”

Medlock hopes the New Farmer Network will be the seed that grows a strong local food system and cultivates a sustainable future.

Working with NMSU Extension, NWNM Buy Fresh Buy Local chapter, and the Harvest Food Hub in Farmington, the New Farmers Network will also provide technical assistance on specialty crop production and marketing in the region.

For more information about the New Farmers Network, contact Medlock at wmedlock@nmsu.edu or call 505-334-9496.

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