The high cost of land, racial inequity and land grabbing that underpins agriculture in the United States is part of a global trend of expropriative land practice, founded upon centuries of corporate greed and colonial violence. Agrarian Trust is an active member of a global movement that seeks to heal from these destructive forces, while charting a new path forward—beginning with Indigenous knowledge, local control of the land and agroecological growing practices. Since its founding in 2010, the United States Food Sovereignty Alliance (USFSA) has worked “to end poverty, rebuild local food economies, and assert democratic control over the food system” as a partner organization of the International Planning Committee for Food Sovereignty.
As a recipient of Roanoke City’s share of American Rescue Plan funding, LEAP is working to create a centralized food hub about a mile down the road from Lick Run Farm farm, where Cam plans to take his vision for growing food and building community to the next level. Once the funds are raised, the land will become the founding farm for the Southwest Virginia Agrarian Commons: a space where Cam can build soil, host workshops, and raise vegetables to be sold on-site as well as through LEAP’s new food hub.
The Gund Institute for Environment, based out of the University of Vermont (UVM), recently announced their inaugural Equity and Justice research grant, which supports projects that aim to address inequities and injustices underlying environmental crises. I was honored to receive one of these grants to support my collaboration with Agrarian Trust exploring how creative approaches improve equitable farmland access and sustainable on-farm practices. To date, land access policy initiatives in the United States have focused exclusively on expanding private property ownership. Recent research, however, indicates that such efforts may not fully address the systemic and structural barriers to equitable farmland access.
Such historical examples of commoning practices and resistance to land enclosures not only provide ample opportunity to learn from past struggles, but also serve as proof that, rather than being a static relic of the past, the commons are continuously defended and transformed in the struggle against the exploitative and dehumanizing forces of enclosure. Agrarian Trust and similar grassroots organizations are part of this long lineage of commoners fighting for a more equitable and ecologically oriented relationship with the land. Over three hundred years before the founding of Agrarian Trust, Gerard Winstanley and the Diggers championed a compelling alternative to the early capitalism of the seventeenth century. Their platform centered on the democratic control of land and the restorative power of a simple but often overlooked fertilizing agent—manure.
The authors of Frankie Explores the Farm, Courtney Taylor and Harmony Marquardt, are donating the proceeds from their new book to the fundraising campaign for Southwest Virginia Agrarian Commons. By purchasing a copy on Agrarian Trust’s website, you can contribute to Southwest Virginia Agrarian Common’s effort to raise more than $250,000 to purchase Lick Run Farm and ensure that the farm’s 3.5 acres remain accessible and productive.
The International Land Coalition has released a new strategy that centers on securing land rights for “women, youth, family and peasant farmers, indigenous peoples, pastoralists, forest dwellers, fisher folk, afro‑descendants and local communities.” The Agrarian Trust is a member of the International Land Coalition (ILC), a global coalition of over 300 members dedicated to the advancement of people-centered land governance.
In April 1651, the political theorist Thomas Hobbes published his most well-known literary work, Leviathan. An ardent royalist writing primarily in response to the discord of the English Civil War, […]
Redlining was a red mark against these robust neighborhoods, meaning that they could not connect to federal funding for home loans. Race was the defining factor in redlining and prevented these communities from gaining full access to the federal support that was needed and that they paid into through the federal tax system.
While securing land tenure is a challenge facing farmers of every race in this country, Agrarian Trust knows that land access is a greater barrier for farmers of color, and is centering the work of making affordable land security available to BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) farmers. More than 98% of farmland in the U.S. is owned by white people while more than 70% of the farmworkers who seed, cultivate, weed, and harvest the crops that feed us are people of color. This gross injustice needs to change.
The Puget Sound Agrarian Commons (AC) has chosen Adasha Turner, founder and director of Modest Family Solutions, as the long-term leaseholding steward of the land gift that started the Puget Sound Agrarian Commons and the Agrarian Commons movement.
In June 2021, the first farm was transferred into the New Hampshire Agrarian Commons. The 63 acres of farmland were a gift: the Monadnock Community Land Trust (MCLT) donated the land to the Agrarian Commons so that it could continue to be protected for farming.
America's Test Kitchen Reporter Ashia Aubourg recently produced a story about the successful creation of a land commons in Maine, one of the first of its kind. She interviews Muhidin Libah, a farmer, and President of the Somali Bantu Community Association, and Ian McSweeney, Director of Agrarian Land Trust.
We are thrilled to announce that Agrarian Trust has been awarded a grant from the North Central SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education) Professional Development Program! This generous funding will […]
Agrarian Trust fully funded its third fundraiser on October 12th, 2021. Working together with the West Virginia Agrarian Commons, the fundraiser reached total completion in ten months, surpassing the goal of $258,000, raising $261,346*.
If you drive east from Vancouver for about an hour and a half on a Saturday morning, you can join the group of city dwellers, expats, artists and others gathering for the weekend harvest at Abundance Community Farm. “We call it the farmily,” chuckled Amir Niroumand. He purchased the land for Abundance in 2016 as a place for intentional community and collective farming. It was a risky investment – an experiment in communal responsibility – and it worked. Now, Niroumand is thinking about the future.
A Q&A with Adam Hodges, founding board member of the West Virginia Agrarian Commons, Community and Economic Development Extension Agent for Fayette County, and author of Destination: Beautification - A Community Resource Guide, released in 2015.
In celebration of Juneteenth, we’re posting an excerpt from the FaithLands Toolkit. While the toolkit’s overview on strategies for reparations was conceived for an audience of faith communities, any community can make use of these strategies.
Please join us in congratulating the Somali Bantu Community Association of Maine (SBCA), co-founders of the Little Jubba Maine Agrarian Commons, on being honored by the US Food Sovereignty Alliance’s […]
Humanity can no longer afford to ignore the myriad ways in which monoculture is unsustainable and dangerous. Widespread environmental sustainability is virtually impossible under the monoculture farming model. It seems as though we must look to the farmers and stewards of the past to protect public health into the foreseeable future.
The recent uprisings are shaking the world. We are again at a tipping point that is a long time coming. Just as it always has, it will require not only weeks, months, or years of protest but decades and centuries of commitment to create a culture of equity and justice.
Agrarian Trust, with the support of our incredible community has launched ten Agrarian Commons, and made significant progress on our first farm fundraiser. We are proud to report that we raised $324,000 in just over one month to support the Little Jubba Central Maine Agrarian Commons...
Driving Dispossession: The Global Push to “Unlock the Economic Potential of Land,” sounds the alarm on the unprecedented wave of privatization of natural resources that is underway around the world. Through six case studies—Ukraine, Zambia, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka, and Brazil—the report details the myriad ways by which governments—willingly or under the pressure of financial institutions and Western donor agencies—are putting more land into so-called “productive use” in the name of development.
The struggle to legitimize farmers' markets as essential services has been a hard-fought battle. Here are three reasons why the farmers' market is important to our economy — and why you should support them.
Agrarian Trust has been selected to participate in the Chipotle Aluminaries Project 2.0 which supports ventures from across the country in advancing innovative solutions that empower the next generation of farmers.
On May 4th, 2020, Agrarian Trust announced the launch of a transformative new model for community-based farm and ranch ownership and tenure, the Agrarian Commons. After several years of development and […]
Situated on 33 acres in Newfields, NH, Vernon Family Farm is a pastured poultry operation focused on regenerating soils, community, and connections to food. The chickens are raised with non-GMO grains, are USDA certified, Halal inspected, air chilled, and every part of the animal is processed and used. Along with a value added product line named “Wicked Chicken” which includes a rotisserie chicken, soup, and pot pie, the farm offers an incredible selection of cuts and preparations for their customers such as chicken sausage, ground, offal, skins, and broths. In addition to their meat offerings, Vernon Family Farm also sells rainbow eggs from their pasture raised hens and a variety of farm products from Brookford Farm and other local NH farms.
In moments of crisis, immediate interventions and resources offered by service providers are necessary and life-saving. We applaud these efforts from the bottom of our hearts. Because Agrarian Trust does […]
A reflection on participation in the U.S. Food Sovereignty Alliance first national Political Education Course By Megan Browning In a recent teach-in hosted by The Rising Majority on Movement Building […]
Could Sustainable Agriculture Save It? As farmland in Idaho begins to disappear in favor of large agricultural businesses and home construction projects, sustainable agriculture is more necessary than ever. Forward-thinking […]
By Neil Thapar, Food and Farm Director, Sustainable Economies Law Center Originally posted on the Sustainable Economies Law Center blog This is part two of #DemocratizeDecolonizeDecarbonize, a three-part essay series exploring […]
2018 marked the hundred-year anniversary of the privatization of the San Pedro Land grant, the place where I was born and still call home. It is an arid piece of high desert, covered in piñon and juniper, located in the eastern and northern foothills of the Sandia Mountains in central New Mexico. It was an anniversary no one marked publicly, not even the heirs to the land still living in San Antonito, the village just down the road. It is part of a story lost, for the most part, to so-called progress.
Land in Common is a Community Land Trust in Maine, born out of a community-focused, land justice centered living space that has evolved over the past twenty years. Officially founded in 2008, Land in Common is a nonprofit organization that removes land from the commodity market and places it into a member-run trust where it can be stewarded by residents. Its goal is to create “a multi-generational land base for sustainable livelihoods that supports communities working for just, cooperative, and resilient futures.”
This October, Agrarian Trust is spotlighting the farmers and ranchers who put food on our plates, the advocates who support equitable land tenure and community commons based ownership, and the collaborations that are creating the local Agrarian Commons across the U.S.
"Agrarian Trust, a nonprofit committed to supporting land access for the next generation of farmers, is experimenting with community-controlled land commons to collectively and democratically own the land, while giving 99-year leases to regenerative farmers. This model prioritizes broader community involvement and investment in local farms, while giving farmers long-term land security and equity interests so that they can fully commit to restoring the land over many decades."
Our founding board member Severine von Tscharner Fleming inspires us to consider the question, "What does the land want?" in her latest talk as a Fellow with the Edmund Hillary Fellowship based in New Zealand.
The Woodland Community Land Trust was incorporated in 1979, making it one of the oldest Community Land Trusts (CLTs) established in the United States. Located in the Clearfork Valley of northeastern Tennessee, a low-income Appalachian community dominated by extractive industry and concentrated land holding, economic, and political power, Woodland recently marked its 40th year in operation. Today, Woodland’s vision of community ownership still resounds in possibilities for Appalachian people and confronts the realities of peasant land dispossession throughout U.S. history and worldwide.
We’re thrilled to welcome Josie Walker to our team as our Eastern North Carolina Project Coordinator for FaithLands, a coalition-led initiative that supports faith communities in making lands available for sustainable, agroecological farming, especially to those in society marginalized by virtue of class, race, gender, economic status, and other factors.
The Earthseed Land Collective was formally established in 2012 by a group of black and brown farmers and social justice organizers. All in their 30s and early 40s at the time of its founding, the group currently includes seven founding members. Over the past decade, they have sought to establish a stable land base for their families and an equally grounded, self-sustaining, and welcoming hub for community building, particularly among farmers of color and food justice advocates...
In the United States today, 98% of farmland is owned by white people. That raises some critical questions. Namely, how can we in the land trust community—historically white-led and governed—achieve racial equity and social justice in our work for land access for the next generation of farmers? In our latest post, we reflect on how the Racial Equity Institute's "Groundwater Approach" provides a powerful framework for understanding racial inequity and creating systemic change.
The story of Wingate Farm is firmly grounded in the rich and complex dynamics of multi-generational family farming, in which everyone must come together to plan the future of the family’s farm. Through their shared commitment and use of innovative tools to promote farmland affordability, the farmers at Wingate have ensured that the farm will remain accessible to future generations.
We commissioned and presented a new poster to visually explain how we’ve mapped out the structure of an agrarian commons and engaged in discussions with a number of legacy farmers who expressed interest. Check out our new Agrarian Commons poster (version 1.0) and let us know what you think!
That these farms are going to change hands is inevitable; that the next generation of farmers who so desperately want to farm them cannot afford to buy them is a stark reality. How can land trusts help turn the tide against the mounting barriers faced by our nation’s farmers?
Agrarian Trust staff had the pleasure of meeting with farmers, landowners, and organizers at Hawthorne Valley Farm in Ghent, NY and The Watershed Center in Millerton, NY in late October. We learned a lot from our colleagues in the Hudson Valley and reflected on the economic and social aspects of our beginning agrarian commons work. Above all, it was an honor to spend time with organizations and people engaged in such compelling and inspiring place-based work with larger justice implications.
We hope you’ve been enjoying the changing of the seasons. We’re looking forward to the crackle of leaves and harvests of autumn—and to the many upcoming events where we’ll have the opportunity to meet and share more on our work to create a Agrarian Commons. As we travel the land, meeting with farmers and communities, we’ve been sharing our vision and documenting successful stories that inform our approach to land stewardship and equity...
Fordhall Farm shows how enterprising young farmers can engage with the community, mutualise the land and put it into trusteeship using the Industrial and Provident Society structure, raise the purchase capital from members and balance community access rights with farming needs. Ben and Charlotte Hollins were given a Schumacher Award in October 2006.
The National Trust of England is the country’s largest owner of farmland. Agricultural land is one aspect of the organization’s conservation goals. Established in the late 1800s, with a vision for preserving the nation’s heritage and open spaces, the charity organization has continued to uphold the value of their founders. Originally established as an Association not-for-profit in 1884, the trust was soon after given more solidity through various acts of British Parliament. The organization remains independent of government and relies on grants, donors and other sources of income, rather than direct government subsidy. Some of the funds come from admission to and products from the trusts Home Farm as well as other preserved historic estates.
Black farmers have developed countless creative and enduring responses to the challenges of discrimination and disinvestment in US agriculture. Far too many of the initiatives led by Black farmers in the past did not thrive due in part to a hostile social and political climate that devalued and discouraged their efforts. The continued work of organizations such as the Federation of Southern Cooperatives helps ensure that the innovative approaches to land ownership and agricultural production developed by Black farmers will be recognized and documented, as well as carried forward by future generations. We still have much to learn from the history of Black farmers in America.
Concepts such as agroecology, biodynamics, permaculture, food miles, food deserts, food justice, and local food have all proliferated in both popular and scholarly venues over the past ten to fifteen years. Such a sustainable agriculture gestalt is vibrant and worthy of more sustained discussion and critical attention. In this spirit, “The Spirit of Sustainable Agriculture” aims to bring together farmers, religious and spiritual leaders, and academics, respectively, to join in a robust and stimulating discussion about the spirit of sustainable agriculture, delineating its past, celebrating and investigating its present, and theorizing its future.
In the context of global warming, issues of access to land and water have been revived at a moment of disappearing land, mass migration, foreclosures, evictions, rent hikes, land grabs, and the privatization of clean water. We believe that now is a vital moment for academics and activists to enter a shared conversation about control and access to land and water, naming the most formidable challenges, the utopian models, and the important historical analogues for our present moment.
About 50% of Midwestern landowners in Iowa are women. Many of these women are non-operator farm-owners whose spouses have passed away. The Women, Food and Agriculture Network (WFAN) has been serving these Midwestern women farmers and farmland owners since their founding as a non-profit project in 1997. The network was created to provide information, networking and leadership development opportunities to women working in sustainable agriculture and food systems development.
The story of Temple-Wilton Community Farm is one of community and commitment, persistence, and vision. As a community-based farm, Temple-Wilton provides support for its farmers and food security for its members. The farm exemplifies how Agrarian Trust might protect a working farm in perpetuity as a kind of ‘agrarian commons’ while upholding the values of access, affordability, and land security.
The American Farmland Trust (AFT) is a pioneer in organizing planned donation of land for agricultural preservation. Their Forever Farmland Society (FFS) offers a way for farm-owners to include AFT in their estate planning.
Our Table Co-op is the farm business part of a three organization system, all working together to realize a shared vision. The group started when their non-profit fiscal arm, Community by Design, LLC, purchased the 58-acre farm in Sherwood, OR, in September of 2011.
The 14,000-member La Montañita Co-op runs the La Montañita (LaM) Fund, a member-funded micro-lending program for food system producers and cooperative businesses in New Mexico. The fund provides affordable one-, three-, and five-year notes for small- and medium-scale projects that increase sustainable production.
In a uniquely collaborative arrangement developed by the Schumacher Center for a New Economics, the Community Land Trust in the Southern Berkshires, the Berkshire Highlands Program of The Nature Conservancy, and farmers Elizabeth Keen and Alex Thorp joined together to purchase Indian Line Farm in southwestern Massachusetts. The aims of the partnership are to preserve the first CSA farm project in North America, to maintain it as a working organic farm, to protect the adjacent sensitive wetlands, and to provide small-scale farmers access to affordable farmland.
Book & Plow Farm is the result of a student-driven initiative to get local food into Valentine Dining Hall at Amherst College, a small liberal arts school in western Massachusetts. The farm functions as a private, for-profit business farming on college-owned farmland. The farm has a contract with the college to supply vegetables for campus dining commons as well as to be an educational resource for the school. Book & Plow was selected through a proposal process. The college offers the farmland as well as some financial support for infrastructure.
What does an equitable food system look like in world that values corporate profits over people, health, and the environment? What would a grassroots movement of people look like—a movement large enough to fight those interests and win? What does it look like for a national food movement to “build power”? These are just some of the larger questions that arose at the US Food Sovereignty Alliance (USFSA)’s Northeast Regional Assembly...
The Tablehurst and Plaw Hatch Community Farm initiative was born in 1994 when it appeared that biodynamic Tablehurst Farm might be lost after more than 25 years of careful husbandry by Emerson College. The college could no longer support the farm and, following a major community fund-raising drive, agreed to sell the farm assets to the community while retaining ownership of the land.
How do we cooperatively own and steward land for food sovereignty, soil and ecosystem health, community benefit, service to the watershed, and more? Agrarian Trust’s proposed method is a new form (legal, cultural, and financial) of land ownership to support land access for the next generation of farmers, and we make the path by walking it.
We’re excited to share some great news with you on our hiring efforts to grow our organization and further our mission in 2018! -- We were delighted to welcome Elizabeth Spellman and Jamie Pottern to our team this month, and we're happy to announce that Ian McSweeney will be joining the staff as our new Organizational Director.
Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation, recently published a profound statement about the importance of addressing inequality to fight climate change. Offering insight into these intertwined issues, which have become the defining challenges of our time, he focuses on the fundamental role of land.
Because ecological destruction affects both friend and foe, the use of bombs, drones and missiles is akin to shooting oneself in the foot…and the lungs and the spirit. War undermines that which most of the world’s people aspire to: physical and financial security; satisfying work and social ties; clean air, food and water. Perhaps we can skip the violence and tragedy and blowback and move directly to restitution: reparations for damage sustained.