The Ogallala Aquifer, Water Depletion, and the Promise of the Commons

Oct 31, 2022 • Agrarian Commons, Sustainable Farming • By Noah Wurtz

In California and the Midwest, extended droughts have already caused farmers to draw heavily on aquifers (large, underground reservoirs of water) to water their crops. The Ogallala Aquifer, which stretches across much of the Midwest, a region which produces one-fifth of U.S. wheat, corn, and cotton, and over a third of its beef, has already been significantly depleted.

Agrarian Trust Co-sponsored the 2022 Food Week of Action

Oct 21, 2022 • Agrarian Commons, Agrarian Trust, Food Systems and Security • By Noah Wurtz

Last week, food justice organizations around the country observed the Food Week of Action, an initiative led by Presbytarian Hunger Program. This year’s Week of Action had the theme People and Planet First,  and centered the work of farmers, fishers, and other agriculturalists as they fight to build food sovereignty across the globe. As part of the Week of Action, participating organizations hosted events, actions, and worship services supporting this critical effort.

The Legacy of Land

Oct 09, 2022 • Agrarian Commons, Agrarian Trust, Giving and Fundraisers • By Noah Wurtz

While these are the most common options donors use to transfer land into an Agrarian Commons, every donor is different. Agrarian Trust will work closely with prospective donors to ensure that they are able to make the gift in a way that best suits their needs, while continuing to support the Agrarian Commons. For example, donors can choose to donate only part of their land, or to spread their donation out over a couple of years in order to receive the optimal tax benefits. Nonprofits and land trusts are also welcome to donate land to Agrarian Trust.

Envisioning the Future of Black Seed Agroecological Farm and Village

Oct 04, 2022 • Agrarian Commons, Agrarian Trust, Food Systems and Security, Land Justice and Equity, Sustainable Farming • By Noah Wurtz

Black Seed Agroecological Village and Farm is still in the beginning stages of development. As is the case with most new farming operations, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done before the farm can begin operating at full capacity. New fields need to be cultivated, perennials planted, and new buildings constructed. Turner is currently working with the Washington State Department of Agriculture to define water rights on the farm, and to identify the source of surface water that covers part of the land.

Rebuilding the Soil with Steve Normanton

Sep 23, 2022 • Agrarian Commons, Sustainable Farming • By Noah Wurtz

Rotational grazing is an exercise in balance and careful observation, requiring the farmer to time the movements of their herd around the life cycles of the grass and the decomposition of manure. If a plot of land is overgrazed, the soil can be polluted by excess manure. If it is not grazed at all, the grass loses the rich nutrients provided by manure and goes to seed, creating fibrous “lignified” organic matter that is less nutrient dense and difficult for cattle to digest.

Ensuring Donated Land Gets Managed Equitably

Sep 12, 2022 • Agrarian Commons, Agrarian Trust, Giving and Fundraisers, Land Justice and Equity • By Noah Wurtz

For Callie, successfully conserving agricultural land with issues of racial equity and environmental sustainability in mind took a lot of time and plenty of careful planning. After inheriting the land in 2015, Callie enrolled in classes at the local college and attended conferences on biological farming in search of farmers who shared her vision. Callie found a number of farmers who were interested in working the land, but only one couple was able to make a long-term commitment. Finally, after years of looking for a good fit, Callie and her husband found the Agrarian Commons model. 

Building the Foundations for Food Sovereignty at Lick Run

Sep 07, 2022 • Agrarian Commons • By Noah Wurtz

Community engagement and youth education play key roles in Terry’s vision for Lick Run Farm—even when it comes to creating a viable farm infrastructure. Building a greenhouse, Terry pointed out, can be an opportunity for teens to acquire important career skills.

“Something I learned firsthand when I first started farming was that farming is so much more than raising plants,” said Terry. “You at least have to be competent with plumbing, carpentry, maybe even a bit of electrical work.”

Ostrom’s Eight Design Principles for a Successfully Managed Commons

Aug 31, 2022 • Agrarian Commons, Agrarian Trust • By Noah Wurtz

Torbel came to international attention in 1990, when Ostrom published her groundbreaking study of commons, Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action. In the book, Ostrom argued against the dominant understanding of the commons, as exemplified by Garret Hardin’s Tragedy of the Commons, which held that the commons would inevitably—and tragically—be depleted by rational, self-interested actors. The existence of communities like Torbel was evidence enough for Ostrom that Hardin’s model was too abstract.

Restoring Native Pollinator Habitats with the Agrarian Commons

Aug 15, 2022 • Agrarian Commons, Agrarian Trust, Sustainable Farming • By Noah Wurtz

In the past twenty years, habitat loss, pests, pathogens, a lack of genetic diversity among pollinator species, and the reckless use of pesticides has caused a drastic drop in the United State’s pollinator population. Between April 2020 and April 2021 alone, beekeepers report losing 45.1 percent of managed honey bee colonies. This loss of pollinators impedes the function of successful ecosystems and poses a direct threat to farmers’ ability to successfully grow food. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), about “one mouthful in three in our diet directly or indirectly benefits from honey bee pollination.”