Fran Miller loves to grow garlic. She plants it every year, pressing the cloves into the earth at the end of fall, gathering the scapes in early summer, and curing the bulbs through the early fall. The rituals and rhythms of garlic-growing are the cornerstone of her garden, a way of grounding herself as she moves through her life and work. “For me, growing food is healing,” said Miller in a recent conversation.
In addition to being a committed garlic-grower, Miller is Senior Staff Attorney and Adjunct Faculty at Vermont Law and Graduate School’s Center for Agriculture and Food Systems (CAFS). Her work focuses on expanding farmland access, particularly for communities that have been marginalized by the lack of capital and racial discrimination.
She also focuses on creating legal educational materials for heirs’ property owners and those who support and advocate for them. Heirs’ property owners are especially vulnerable to predatory practices of those trying to gain ownership of land, and has led to a significant amount of land loss in the African American community. In addition, since 2019, Miller has been a project partner to Agrarian Trust and participated in creating the Agrarian Commons.
We are thrilled to announce that, after these four years of collaboration, Miller will be joining Agrarian Trust as its newest board member. This role comes as an extension of the years Miller spent in social justice work, advocating for election reform, leading trainings in food justice advocacy, and more.
“I have always been a social justice activist, looking at ways that I could contribute to the movement,” said Miller. “Agrarian Trust is on a path that I believe in, to change the way that people relate to land, and to support land access for communities, especially for those from which it’s either been stolen, or who face disproportionately high obstacles in accessing it.”
Miller began her career with social transformation in mind. As a student at Ithaca College, Miller organized against nuclear power, and US government intervention in the democratic elections of Latin American countries. Later, during and after law school in New York City, Miller was an organizer with Dr. Lenora Fulani’s presidential campaigns in 1988 and 1992. Dr. Fulani was the first Black woman to get on the ballot in all 50 states as an independent candidate. In 2008, Miller turned her focus to the injustices in the food and agriculture systems.
Up until then, “I thought the environmental movement was all about polar bears and not focused on people,” said Miller. Her view changed after reading The Green Collar Economy by Van Jones; “It showed how the social justice movement and the environmental movement could each grow exponentially by connecting.” She embraced this new perspective wholeheartedly, helping to found a CSA in Brooklyn in 2008, getting involved in the urban agriculture and food justice movement in NYC, and serving on the board of Farm School NYC NYC between 2012 and 2018. It was through her involvement in this work that Miller saw first hand how “corporate America controlled our food and agriculture systems.”
Miller got a masters degree in food and agriculture policy from Vermont Law School in 2017, and in 2019, she began her current role as Staff Attorney and Adjunct Faculty at CAFS. Now, Miller looks forward to her latest chapter of social justice work, supporting Agrarian Trust as a board member.
“Community based ownership, and community collaboration. These are powerful tools, where they fit, for building a food system that is more just, and inclusive,” said Miller. “I believe Agrarian Trust can play a key role in bringing these tools to farmers and communities across the country, and contribute to the growing movement that seeks to fundamentally shift how we relate to, and live on the land. I’m excited by this opportunity to stay involved in helping it happen.”