Agrarian Trust has the mission to support land access for next generation farmers, and is a project of the Schumacher Center for New Economics.
In the next two decades, 400 million acres of U.S. farmland will change hands, and the question of what will happen to that land when it reaches the market is crucial to the future of our food system.
Just in time for this pivotal land transition is a new generation of young farmers, eager to become stewards of our land and healthfully provide for their communities. However, these farmers face ever greater odds in accessing affordable and secure land tenure; the price of land in the US has skyrocketed in the past decade, and one acre of farmland is lost to development every minute.
A sea change is needed to ensure secure, affordable tenure for this new generation of land stewards in this crucial moment of intergenerational land transition.
Agrarian Trust was initiated in January 2013 by a group of stakeholders in sustainable agriculture; many of them farmer service providers and beginning farmers who have witnessed firsthand the formidable obstacles we face – there is great work being done to help farmers access land, but it is not enough to make the change needed. Working together for 3 days, this group came up with a plan of action to address the needs of service providers and next generation farmers.
Goals of Agrarian Trust:
- Build the issue (of land access) and reframe the solution through public symposia, collaborative advocacy campaigns, and stakeholder meetings.
- Support the network of stakeholders and service providers through collection and documentation of innovative models for land access. Create a comprehensive resource portal to pool the useful tools already developed.
- Build the Agrarian Trust that can hold and transfer land to regional land organizations, and ensure its sustainable and productive stewardship for generations to come.
We are currently hard at work on the first two of these goals, as well as working towards incorporation as our own legal entity.
We hope that you will join us in this effort. For land access stories, information about our upcoming Symposium, and to join our email list, please visit the Agrarian Trust homepage.
More about us in the Press, Photos and Agrarian Trust Events
CONTACT: office [at] agrarian trust [dot] org
Farmland Access remains a keystone issue for the next generation of farmers in the country and for farming as a whole. In historical terms, the ‘agricultural use value’ and ‘real-estate value’ have never been more polarized. In other words, the value that you can earn from production on the land is far below the value of the land in the marketplace. As a consequence financing of land adds to the the high capital needs of a start-up farm business ( restoring barn, cooling, greenhouses, fencing, pasture upgrades, equipment etc) along with inevitable life and operations costs: healthcare, gasoline, housing. In a cheap-food economy earning enough to pay for these four costs : 1.) land, 2.) infrastructure, 3.) working capital, 4.) living expenses presents a major challenge for new farm operators. Add on to this high perishability, high labor costs, un-predictable weather and a persishable product, you can see why it takes a brave soul to enter agricultural entrepreneurship.
And yet this is exactly what our rural economy needs, more producers operating at an appropriate scale, with the ability to create jobs, care for the soil and water, and produce healthy food for markets, schools, hospitals and distribution networks. We must also rebuild regional infrastructure: cold storage, juice presses, creameries, co-packers, aggregators. These farms produce goods of community value, and as a result to ensure that these farmers can operate we must employ tools which allow the producers both economic opportunity, and the ability to make decisions that are good for the land over the long run.
Each year, a new crop of eager apprentices enter the field, training with experienced mentors, in CRAFT programs, incubator programs, Extension-based farmer training, HMI based business trainings and as farm managers. We have seen an explosion of new farm startups in the last 8 years, but still farmers 65 and older outnumber farmers 35 and younger by a factor of 6: 1. ( USDA census). As a nation, we have an abundance of high quality agricultural land and simply need the best farmers and farming techniques to sustain our lands, and ourselves.
Phase 1 (2013)
We understand that innovation often happens at the edge, therefore our task is to gather together the insights and institutional patterns from our national community.
Each of these case models ( from legislation, cooperative investment, support groups for landowning women) represents a useful tool for farmers and others to use in designing their own farm-land access strategy. We will catalog these case models, interpret them, and evaluate them according to the criteria we developed at our founding meeting.
-Find and showcase models from across the country: innovative practices employed by farmers, communities, planners, investors and cooperatives to address this key issue of land access.
- -Document and promote regionally-appropriate models that conserve productive farmland dedicated to sustainable agriculture, and make the land available to next-generation producers.
- -Expand and enhance the financial, legal, and technical assistance networks that are central to the political and economic success of the next generation of American agrarians;
- - Facilitate and develop the social and intellectual networks required to overcome the present cultural economy of industrial agriculture. See the resource map we created.
- By learning from successful models, we can scale up the rate of farmland succession
Phase 2: (2014)
Raise the profile of Farmland Succession Issues.
- Presentation at Oxford Real Farming Conference ( January)
- Our Land Symposium (April 26 & 27)
- Land Negotiation Training Event (May 3)
- Presentation at BALLE Conference, Oakland (June)
- Presentation at Summer NOFA Conference ( August)
- in partnership with Conservation Law Foundation
- Presentation at American Farmland Trust annual gathering (September)
- Presentation at Bioneers ( October)
- Presentation at Presentation at Slow Money Conference ( November)
- Farmland for the Future, (November 2014)
- in partnership with Community Food Funders, and North Star Fund.
Build the legal structure and institutional structure to hold the trust in partnership with Sustainable Economies Law Center.
Release 2nd guidebook: ” Benevolent Investors Guide to the New Farm economy”
Phase 3: (2015)
Begin Accepting Land Gifts, and donations to purchase farmland for Agrarian Trust.
Begin accepting new farmer proposals for farmland purchase and protection
Release 3rd Guidebook
Agrarian Trust was conceived in January 2013 by a 30-member team of farmers, ranchers, lawyers, conservationists, farm-service providers, philanthropists, farm business advisers, technical assistants, agricultural economists and accountants at Paicines Ranch, Paicines California.
Our mission is threefold:
- Build the issue of land transfer. What Henry George called “The Land Question.”
- Support stakeholders (landowners, new farmers, investors, farm service providers, farm heirs, farmland owners) to make good decisions for the best interest of the land and its stewards
- Build a Farmland Commons to hold the land, a gold standard that provokes a powerful conversation about the commons.
Agrarian Trust is happy to be partnering with the Sustainable Economies Law Center of Berkeley California in writing the legal language to hold land in the farmland commons. We hope to be ready to take in farms by April 2015, primarily via ” land gifting” in the tradition of the Bhoodan movement.
The trust design is based on the work of Terre De Liens, a French group that has protected more than 100 organic farms, as well as the principles gathered from our stakeholder community during the Paicines sessions.
The design is informed by the question: “What does the land want?” And how can we arrange the social and economic relationships around that goal. Through our work we can preserve affordable farmland for sustainable agriculture, in perpetuity. In the face of land grabbing, speculation, financialization and farmland loss to development– we know the power of example to provoke a conversation about the foundation of our economy.
On our site you’ll find many useful resources including a guidebook: Affording Our Land, a young farmers guide to farm finance. We also have a blog of “Land News” and over 70 documented Land Access Stories & Strategies, which will continue to grow. We are committed to tracking, and interpreting innovative models of partnership, lease-to-own, community finance, and land-gifting, and welcome your suggestions of more leads to follow up on. You can also find a comprehensive resource list and geocoded map, access to a network of Agrarian Lawyers, and the Kiva Zip program.
For landowners and land-seekers, check out the Land Listings.
Want to work with us?
Please send a resume (or link to an online bio) plus a letter of interest to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are currently looking for:
journalists and story-tellers to write up our growing list of land access case studies
development and fundraising expertise
land access hub coordinator (farm inquiries, resources, partnerships)
social media and blog coordinator