The Agrarian Commons model, now in its implementation phase, is being studied by researchers, professors, and students throughout higher education and law school institutions.
There is little doubt that over the next 5-10 years upwards of 400 million acres of land in the U.S. will change hands as farmers and ranchers retire. What will happen with that land is of great concern to me and to Agrarian Trust.
As the campaign to raise $426,250 to purchase Lick Run Farm gains momentum, the Harvest Collective, a Virginia-based collaborative farming group, is already hard at work preparing Lick Run for its new place in the Southwest Virginia Agrarian Commons. Along with Cam Terry, the head farmer at Garden Variety Harvests, the collective has been mowing grass, laying tarps, and completing small construction projects around the land.
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.
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.
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.
Such historical examples of commoning practices and resistance to land enclosures not only provide ample opportunity to learn from past struggles, but also serve as proof that, rather than being a static relic of the past, the commons are continuously defended and transformed in the struggle against the exploitative and dehumanizing forces of enclosure. Agrarian Trust and similar grassroots organizations are part of this long lineage of commoners fighting for a more equitable and ecologically oriented relationship with the land. Over three hundred years before the founding of Agrarian Trust, Gerard Winstanley and the Diggers championed a compelling alternative to the early capitalism of the seventeenth century. Their platform centered on the democratic control of land and the restorative power of a simple but often overlooked fertilizing agent—manure.
The International Land Coalition Commits to New Strategy Centered on Restoring Land Rights to Dispossessed Communities
The International Land Coalition has released a new strategy that centers on securing land rights for “women, youth, family and peasant farmers, indigenous peoples, pastoralists, forest dwellers, fisher folk, afro‑descendants and local communities.” The Agrarian Trust is a member of the International Land Coalition (ILC), a global coalition of over 300 members dedicated to the advancement of people-centered land governance.
The Southwest VA AC needs to raise $251,329 through a fundraising campaign to fully fund this $426,250 project and acquire the 3.5-acre Lick Run Farm in Roanoke, Virginia.
While securing land tenure is a challenge facing farmers of every race in this country, Agrarian Trust knows that land access is a greater barrier for farmers of color, and is centering the work of making affordable land security available to BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) farmers. More than 98% of farmland in the U.S. is owned by white people while more than 70% of the farmworkers who seed, cultivate, weed, and harvest the crops that feed us are people of color. This gross injustice needs to change.