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.

Combatting Climate Change

Oct 24, 2022 • Sustainable Farming • By Noah Wurtz

The good news is, while emissions reduction is still the most important way to mitigate climate catastrophe, there is a growing body of evidence that shows that carbon can be removed from the atmosphere—and stored in soil. This process, known as soil sequestration, is being championed by farmers, climate scientists, and nonprofit organizations, including Agrarian Trust, who see it as one of our most valuable tools in the fight against climate change.

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.

What is Agroecology?

Sep 30, 2022 • Food Systems and Security, Land Access Stories, Land Justice and Equity, Sustainable Farming • By Noah Wurtz

Agroecology is simply a continuation of these millennia of knowledge accumulation. Any one definition of agroecology as a practice would be incomplete. It reaches beyond a limited set of techniques or ideas, instead embracing the efficacy of agricultural techniques produced on a regionally, culturally, and ecologically specific level.

Key Findings From National Young Farmers Coalition’s 2022 Farmer Survey

Sep 29, 2022 • Food Systems and Security, Land Access Stories, Land Justice and Equity, Sustainable Farming • By Noah Wurtz

According to the survey, 59 percent of farmers surveyed reported that finding affordable land was “very or extremely challenging.” An even higher percentage of BIPOC farmers—68 percent of Indigenous respondents and 66 percent of Black respondents—gave the same response.

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.

La Via Campesina

Aug 29, 2022 • Agrarian Trust, Land Access Stories, Land Justice and Equity, Sustainable Farming • By Noah Wurtz

La Via Campesina coined the term food sovereignty in 1996, against the background of an increasingly globalized food system, which heavily favored large agribusinesses over small-scale farmers. The World Trade Organization (WTO) pressured countries to dismantle their local agricultural system, to lower prices, and become competitive on the global market. In order to drive labor costs down, farming became increasingly centralized, driving peasants and Indigenous people off their land at unprecedented rates. Aggressive copyright law and genetic engineering by large agribusinesses robbed peasants of their seeds, rendering them reliant on a volatile global market of pesticides and genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Cheap produce flooded local economies, destroying the livelihoods of farmers who were unable or unwilling to compete.

What can we learn from Deshee Farm? A Visual History

Aug 23, 2022 • Land Access Stories, Land Justice and Equity, Sustainable Farming • By Noah Wurtz

While farms like Deshee failed to take hold in the United States and had significant limitations, its story serves as a reminder that the privatized corporate farming that dominates U.S. agriculture was anything but inevitable. Grassroots organizing by tenant farmers played a key role in securing innovative, state-funded programming whose scale and vision matched the needs of the moment. Had there been more resources to fund similar efforts and more time and autonomy for the members of RA farms to develop the necessary institutions and cultural practices to effectively govern their shared resources, we might have been living in a different, more cooperatively focused world. 

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.”

What are the Rights of Nature?

Aug 09, 2022 • Agrarian Trust, Sustainable Farming • By Noah Wurtz

An ecologically responsible, regenerative approach to land management is at the center of Agrarian Trust’s effort to conserve and increase access to farmland across the United States. When a farmer signs on an Agrarian Commons lease, they agree to adhere to a high standard of ecological land management, and to respect specifically defined “Rights of Nature,” which are included explicitly in the lease. Listed here, the Rights of Nature in the Agrarian Commons lease include, but are not limited to: