Farmland Preservation Specialist

The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) mission is to help keep the Massachusetts’ food supply safe and secure, and to work to keep Massachusetts agriculture economically and environmentally sound.

The Department of Agricultural Resources is seeking an enthusiastic land conservation professional to join its 16 member farmland preservation team within the Division of Agricultural Conservation & Technical Assistance (DACTA) and Agricultural Preservation Restriction Program (APR).

DACTA promotes agricultural land preservation, environmental stewardship, technology, and technical assistance to meet the challenges of 21st-century farming. We do this by providing funding and delivering services to preserve working agricultural lands, improve agricultural stewardship and use of natural resources, promote energy efficiency and use of renewable energy, and ensure economic competitiveness and profitability.

The APR program is a groundbreaking conservation program - the first of its kind in the nation that has since protected over 930 farms totaling over 73,000 acres. The program focuses on preserving farmland and maintaining affordable land access to both established and beginning farmers. We do this through the purchase of agricultural preservation restrictions and options to purchase at agricultural value. Recently the program participated in the Resilient Lands Initiative – a plan for land conservation in Massachusetts that reduces our vulnerability to climate change and builds resilience in our natural communities. Currently, the program is spearheading a statewide Agricultural Land Action Plan that will build off and unify pertinent statewide plans such as the Massachusetts 2050 Decarbonization Roadmap, the Massachusetts Healthy Soils Action Plan, the Massachusetts Local Food Action Plan, and the Resilient Lands Initiative Vision and Strategy. The program also continues to implement program enhancements based on emerging needs and challenges.

A cover letter and resume must be submitted as part of the application process and attached “as relevant” to the requisition.

Position Summary:

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 region of the state west of Worcester County, 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 are opportunities for training if needed.

Key Responsibilities

● 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 recommendations to the APR team and 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 the APR team in the formulation, modernization and improvement of guidelines, policies and regulations for the APR program;
● Work closely with APR Stewardship Planners, where needed, on APR acquisitions, 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.
● Participate in an inter-agency lands committee with other agencies within the Executive Office of Energy & Environmental Affairs including the Department of Fish and Game and Department of Conservation & Recreation
● Continually increase knowledge of agricultural conservation restriction best practices, and land use planning.
● Learn and adopt new methods to perform tasks accurately and efficiently.
● Other duties as assigned.

Preferred Qualifications

• 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 2 years of 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 to 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.

Qualifications

First consideration will be given to those applicants that apply within the first 14 days.

MINIMUM ENTRANCE REQUIREMENTS: Applicants must have at least (A) four years of full-time, or equivalent part-time technical or professional experience in urban or regional planning, environmental planning, transportation planning or land use planning, and (B) of which at least two years must have been in a professional capacity or (C) any equivalent combination of the required experience and the substitutions below.

Substitutions:
I. A Bachelor's degree with a major in urban or regional planning, environmental planning, urban studies, architecture, landscape architecture, civil, environmental, or transportation engineering or environmental sciences may be substituted for two years of the required (A) experience.*

II. A Graduate degree with a major in urban or regional planning, environmental planning, urban studies, architecture, landscape architecture, civil, environmental, or transportation engineering or environmental studies may be substituted for three years of the required (A)experience and one year of the required (B) experience.

*Education toward such a degree will be prorated on the basis of the proportion of the requirements actually completed.

NOTE: Educational substitutions will only be permitted for a maximum of three years of the required experience. Substitutions will only be permitted for a maximum of one year of the required (B) experience.

SPECIAL REQUIREMENTS: Based on assignment, possession of a current and valid Massachusetts Class D Motor Vehicle Operator's License.

An Equal Opportunity / Affirmative Action Employer. Females, minorities, veterans, and persons with disabilities are strongly encouraged to apply.

Official Title: Regional Planner III
Primary Location: United States-Massachusetts-West Springfield-Century Way
Job: Planning
Agency: Department of Agricultural Resources
Schedule: Full-time
Shift: Day
Job Posting: Oct 18, 2021, 8:02:03 AM
Number of Openings: 1
Salary: 64,294.62 - 94,119.74 Yearly
If you have Diversity, Affirmative Action or Equal Employment Opportunity questions or need a Reasonable Accommodation, please contact Diversity Officer / ADA Coordinator: Melixza Esenyie - 6176261282
Bargaining Unit: 09-MOSES - Engineers/Scientists
Confidential: No