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.

Global Spotlight: Community Land Scotland

Oct 12, 2022 • Land Access Stories • By Noah Wurtz

The Agrarian Trust is just one of many organizations across the world dedicated to the advancement of community control of the land. In Scotland, state-level land reform and grassroots organizing have led to the widespread practice of community land ownership. In 2010, Community Land Scotland (CLS) was founded to act as a shared voice for community landowners in Scotland and to provide support for communities as they navigate the complex world of purchasing and managing land as a community body. Today, its members “manage 560,000 acres of land, home to some 25,000 people.” As models like the Agrarian Commons gain traction in the United States, it is worth studying the examples of our global partners. CLS deploys a compelling mix of policy work, training, and networking opportunities to support community land ownership in Scotland.

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.

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.

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.

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. 

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.