Commodity or Commons: Finance Capital and the Commodification of Land

Jul 13, 2022 • Agrarian Commons, Agrarian Trust, Food Systems and Security • By Noah Wurtz

The first major entity to begin investing in farmland as an asset was Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America (TIAA)—one of the largest pension firms in the United States, with $1,375 billion in assets. In 2007, the TIAA began purchasing enormous tracts of land. By 2017, the TIAA owned more than 1.9 million acres of farmland worldwide— an area significantly larger than the state of Maryland—including over 490,000 acres in Brazil alone. TIAA’s purchases in Brazil led to the consolidation of power in the hands of a small number of agribusinesses specializing in soy monoculture, driving farmers off their traditional land in record numbers, and leading to widespread deforestation, wildfires, and loss of biodiversity.

Oasis and Community in Petersburg, Virginia

Jun 30, 2022 • Agrarian Commons, Food Systems and Security, Giving and Fundraisers, Land Justice and Equity • By Noah Wurtz

“What it means for our community… it means a sense of hope,” said Cherry. “It’s a light in a very dark time, not just for our city, but even for our country. And its potential for our youth, to know that something besides a place like Walmart exists here—that’s big. Something to be proud about, to say we have a community farm, something we’ve worked for—to have that kind of light in Petersburg.”

Virginia, a Resettlement State

Jun 22, 2022 • Agrarian Commons, Food Systems and Security • By April Jones

America has always been a mix of cultural food traditions. We enjoy the freedom to explore taste and see the bounty of the many foodways, which allows us to be a part of the expansive American awareness. As cities become more culturally diverse, it is a chance for a renewed cultural fusion. 

The state of Virginia has a resettlement program that makes space for this cultural interchange, facilitating new boundaries of cultural storytelling.

Fighting for Domestic and Global Food Sovereignty

May 23, 2022 • Agrarian Trust, Food Systems and Security • By Noah Wurtz

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.

Cultivating Resiliency in Roanoke, Virginia

May 17, 2022 • Agrarian Commons, Food Systems and Security, Giving and Fundraisers, Land Access Stories, Land Justice and Equity • By Briana Olson

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.

Equity & Justice Research Grant

May 15, 2022 • Agrarian Trust, Food Systems and Security, Land Justice and Equity, Press Releases and Announcements • By Katie Horner

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. 

Redlining’s Legacy: Disinvestment in Black Communities in Virginia

Apr 18, 2022 • Food Systems and Security, Land Justice and Equity, Uncategorized • By April Jones

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.