The Department of Agricultural Resources seeks a passionate land conservation professional to join its farmland preservation program acquisition team within the Agricultural Preservation Restriction Program (APR). The first of its kind in the nation, the 40+ year old APR program focuses on preserving farmland and providing affordable land access to both established and beginning farmers. Since its inception the APR program has protected over 930 farms totaling over 73,000 acres.
The Farmland Preservation Specialist is primarily responsible for: planning, managing and coordinating APR farmland restriction acquisitions as assigned. While acquisitions for this position are intended to be primarily in the Western region of the state with an initial focus on Hampshire County, work assignments may be made on a statewide basis depending on need. Ideal candidates will have appropriate experience to hit the ground running, however, there is opportunity for training if needed. Specific responsibilities include but are not limited to:
- Identify and prioritize Agricultural Preservation Restriction acquisition projects, educate and negotiate with landowners, land trusts, and municipalities, plan , coordinate , and successfully complete acquisition projects.
- Conduct property site visits to discuss landowner goals, understand land use practices, property boundaries and proposed exclusions, evaluate natural and agricultural resource values, and educate the landowner on the APR process;
- Evaluate project applications and prepare viable plans for an Agricultural Restriction acquisition including logistics such as project structure, timeline and budget;
- Prepare project summary materials and present proposed acquisitions and staff recommendations to the Agricultural Lands Preservation Committee;
- As determined necessary, secure matching funds through applications to USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) ACEP-ALE easement programs and negotiations with local municipalities, land trusts, landowners and other funding sources;
- Complete project due diligence including evaluations of proposed projects, conduct initial review of title, and review of title examinations, independent appraisals, and boundary surveys, and if necessary review of environmental site assessments and/or environmental database searches;
- Through close collaboration with the APR Program staff and legal counsel prepare and assist in the preparation and/or review of agricultural preservation program documents including but not limited to site evaluation and project ranking forms, official correspondence to applicants/landowners, due diligence procurement requests, purchase and sales and survey agreements, ACEP-ALE or other agency funding applications and forms, Agricultural Preservation Restriction deeds, title encumbrance memos, Baseline Documentation Reports; closing documents, Conservation Land Tax Credit documents, IRS form 8283, and others;
- Address landowner and project partner questions and requests;
- Assist in the formulation of guidelines, policies and regulations for the APR program;
- Work closely with APR Stewardship Planners, where needed, on processing and completion of Department approvals including Certificates of Approval, Special Permits, and requests for waivers to Rights of First Refusal (ROFR) Option to Purchase at Agricultural Value (OPAV).
- Provide public outreach in the forms of presentations, workshops, listening sessions and other needs as assigned.
- Support the writing of news articles, press releases, and reports on agricultural conservation achievements.
- Continually increases knowledge of agricultural conservation restriction best practices, and land use planning.
- Learns and adapts new methods to perform tasks accurately and efficiently.
- Other duties as assigned.
- Bachelor’s degree or higher in natural resources, planning or related field or 4 years of work experience.
- The desired candidate will have at least 3 years professional experience in the area of Land Use Environmental Planning or real estate transactions in a land trust or comparable setting.
- Knowledge of and experience in APR or conservation restriction acquisitions.
- Ability to independently initiate, structure, negotiate, manage, and close complex land transactions and manage project budgets.
- Experience negotiating and relationship building with landowners, private partners, federal, state agencies and municipal partners.
- Strong organizational capacity to manage time and competing priorities, strong written and oral communication skills. Detail oriented.
- Ability to understand and implement Massachusetts General Laws, Regulations, and Department policies and guidelines related to the APR program.
- Ability to work independently and as part of a collaborative team.
- Must be able to drive and available to travel within the region and periodically across the state.
- Must be able and comfortable with hiking through farm properties, sometimes in remote areas, across uneven terrain, in all seasons and weather.
- Ability to use map and compass, understand boundary surveys and maps, use GPS.
Preferred Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities
- Knowledge of land planning principles and practices and associated laws and regulations as it relates farmland protection. Knowledge and understanding of agriculture and horticultural land uses or practices.
- Knowledge and understanding of best practices promulgated by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission or similar conservation acquisition best practices.
- Demonstrated record of structuring land acquisition deals, implementing acquisition plans, managing competing deadlines and achieving goals.
- Experience in closing NRCS ACEP-ALE acquisitions.
- Strong field, research, data analysis and GIS skills.
- Proficient in Microsoft Word, Excel, Powerpoint applications and GIS mapping and analysis through software or applications such as ESRI ArcGIS, ArcView, MassGIS, OLIVER, or GIS tools.
- The successful candidate will be self-directed, highly motivated, personable, flexible.
- Passion and commitment to the Department’s mission.
- Friendly, enthusiastic and positive attitude. Possess a high level of emotional intelligence, confidence, and competency when working with people to collaborate.
To Apply go to the MassCareers Website: https://massanf.taleo.net/careersection/ex/jobdetail.ftl?job=210008T2
MDAR’s mission is to ensure the long-term viability of agriculture in Massachusetts. Through its four divisions – Agricultural Conservation & Technical Assistance, Agricultural Markets, Animal Health, and Crop and Pest Services – MDAR strives to support, regulate and enhance the rich diversity of the Commonwealth’s agricultural community to promote economically and environmentally sound food safety and animal health measures, and fulfill agriculture’s role in energy conservation and production.
For more information, visit MDAR’s website at www.mass.gov/agr.