Land Justice

How Agrarian Trust Relates to and Practices Land Return

Practices of Land Return

  1. Agrarian Trust takes responsibility for educating ourselves about land return, communicating with our constituents about land injustice, lifting up the necessity and possibility of land return, and sharing resources with landowners and others about the path toward participating in land return, while recognizing that land return is not the primary focus of our organization.
  2. Agrarian Trust includes native land acknowledgements in public events and presentations and encourages local Agrarian Commons to do so as well. Agrarian Trust is working with partners and allies to build a repertoire of locally meaningful actions that can be taken by Agrarian Commons boards to support land relationships and practices that respect Indigenous, Black, and other communities of color.
  3. The Agrarian Commons model – including design/infrastructure, sample documents, etc. – is available and open-source to all. Agrarian Trust prioritizes sharing these resources and what we have learned implementing them with Indigenous, Black, and other  communities of color. When appropriate and desired, we provide technical assistance with this open-source model to other communities for their own inspiration, adoption, and adaptation to support their own goals of land decommodification, sovereignty, and connection.
  4. Agrarian Trust requests that each Agrarian Commons board learn about and, if possible consult with, local Indigenous groups in the process of establishing the Agrarian Commons and acquiring land.
  5. Agrarian Trust advocates for, and can help to create, cultural conservation easements, cultural respect and access agreements, and use permits on land held by Agrarian Commons, when feasible and desired by local Indigenous groups.
  6. Agrarian Trust encourages local Agrarian Commons boards to consider and incorporate voluntary land taxes or similar reparative payments into their operating/stewardship budgets, and includes these in template lease agreements for use by Agrarian Commons.
  7. Agrarian Trust recognizes the importance of direct land transfer to BIPOC communities and organizations, and respects their autonomy and sovereignty. When invited, Agrarian Trust can introduce and connect BIPOC communities and organizations to funder, landowner, and collaborator relationships.
  8. When a BIPOC group wants to create an Agrarian Commons and seeks to partner with Agrarian Trust, Agrarian Trust can prioritize BIPOC leadership and decision-making in these ways:
      1. Support the group if it wishes to create an independent 501(c)2 under the umbrella of its own 501(c)3.
      2. Co-create a 501(c)25 with the group, at least two other 501(c)3 entities, and Agrarian Trust.
      3. Create an Agrarian Commons as a 501(c)2 under the umbrella of the Agrarian Trust 501(c)3, with board members and leadership selected from the BIPOC community.
      4. When it is important to the intent of the Agrarian Commons, the standard bylaws may be enhanced with provisions for BIPOC board leadership and representation.
Renard Turner, Central Virginia Agrarian Commons
Support Needed for Land Return That Agrarian Trust Is Not Able to Offer
  1. Directly assisting landowners and land trusts to transfer land to tribal entities, nonprofits, other corporations, and individuals outside of the Agrarian Commons — beyond initial conversations and connections to resources and other organizations.
  2. Creating cultural respect easements or similar contracts, agreements, or conveyances, on land that is not connected to an Agrarian Commons.
  3. Serving as buyer or intermediate landholder for land being transferred to a BIPOC group that is not part of an Agrarian Commons. There are other land trusts that should be held to account for, or are better equipped to serve in, this role.
  4. Fundraising or acting as a fiscal agent for land projects that are not connected to an Agrarian Commons.

Although Agrarian Trust does not currently have capacity to engage in supporting land return in these ways, we will advocate for these kinds of support in policy and land trust circles when possible, and encourage other land trusts to develop their capacity to engage in land return in these and other ways.