Using Contribution Analysis to Evaluate U.S. Farm Link Programs: Opportunities to improve non-family succession of the 'family farm'
This research examines 12 U.S. Farm Link Programs (FLP) using a type of program evaluation called Contribution Analysis (CA) to determine if FLPs are effective in facilitating farmland transfers between retirement-aged farmers without family successors and new farmers beginning their career. CA guided the data collection, which included web audits, interviews, questionnaires, and scholarly and grey literature review. An analytical framework in the form of a theory of change was developed, followed by analysis of the FLPs and their contribution to farm transfers. Although some FLPs experienced relative success, the lack of professional support systems, a heavy reliance on a self-serve Internet database, and the presence of various external conditions prevent most FLPs from facilitating substantial numbers of farm transfers. In order to conceptualize how FLPs may be more successful, a revised theory of change was developed, offering new perspective on the particular systemic conditions in which FLPs operate.