Agrarian Trust

Land Access & Racial Equity: Creating an Agrarian Commons

Highlights from our Summer 2018 newsletter: 

This summer has been full of building relationships, exploring new connections and configurations, and laying a firm foundation for Agrarian Trust to continue our work to create an agrarian commons.

How do we cooperatively own and steward land for food sovereignty, soil and ecosystem health, community benefit, service to the watershed, and more? Agrarian Trust’s proposed method is a new form (legal, cultural, and financial) of land ownership to support land access for the next generation of farmers, and we make the path by walking it. Read more about our Principles here. 

We’d like to share our progress over the last few months and an invitation to deepen your own involvement.

Our team recently returned from trips to Massachusetts, Missouri, and Tennessee, where we met with an inspiring and diverse group of farmers and advocates to share and reflect on the models we’re developing for community-based farmland stewardship. Check out our team reports from the field below for more on our many travels and new developments this summer.  

This month, we also continued our work with our legal team at the Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC). We’re currently moving forward on collectively building out our 501c2 agrarian commons structure and strategically exploring best locations to launch this work. Overall, our focus continues to be on developing community-based land ownership and investment structures that we will put into practice in the coming years. As always, we’re grateful for their collaboration and dedication to furthering sustainability and equity in agriculture and land ownership.

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Our FaithLands initiative has really taken off, and the media is starting to take notice! Check out this feature story in Civil Eats. We also noted related coverage from the BBC on faith-based farms. Our thanks to Robert Karp for his beautiful reflections in “Creating an Ecosystem of Faiths for the Future of the Earth.” Karp is former Executive Director of, and current Strategic Advisor to, the Biodynamic Association, where we will be presenting on FaithLands this November at their annual conference.

Growing out of the gathering organized by our sister organization, the Greenhorns, FaithLands has brought together faith-based organizations from around the country under a shared vision of connecting religious traditions, agriculture, and stewardship, inspiring a spiritual and ethical revolution in our relationship to each other and the land. Our appreciation to our staff and board, especially Jamie and Severine, for fully engaging in this growing initiative.

We hope to see you at the Biodynamic Conference on November 16th, when our team will be presenting on the work of FaithLands and the development of the Agrarian Commons.

Agrarian Trust Team Reports

Jean Willoughby, our Organizational Development Director, has been hard at work behind the scenes to develop our infrastructure and move us forward on the critical projects of creating a new database and new websites for all of our initiatives. Our thanks for helping get us up and running, and we look forward to reaching a growing community of farmers, faith-communities, land access advocates, and legal professionals through our efforts online this year.

Jamie Pottern, our Land, Community & Education Director, was invited to attend the recent Northeast Black-Indigenous Land Trust Legal Skillshare to share the work of Agrarian Trust and support farmers of color in the Northeast in their efforts to gain land access and tenure. We were also happy to be able to sponsor the attendance of two women of color who are community organizers with CTCORE. This engagement is developing into a collaboration to support the development of an appropriate innovative form of land ownership for use by Northeast Farmers of Color. Jamie also will be attending the Northeast Regional Assembly of the U.S. Food Sovereignty Alliance to develop deeper ties with food justice organizations and opportunities for collaboration.

In Tennessee, Ian McSweeney and Elizabeth Spellman, our Organizational Director and Community, Farm & Operations Director, met with farmers interested in engaging with us as we develop our 501c2 legal model. Following those productive and enjoyable meetings, we’ve created a collaborative partnership with the Land Trust for Tennessee and plans to move forward appraisal work is underway.

In St. Louis, Ian attended and presented on Agrarian Trust and our developing legal model for an agrarian commons at CommonBound, an annual conference of 700+ practitioners and organizers working to create equitable, sustainable economies hosted by our friends at the New Economy Coalition.

In Maine and elsewhere, our Board President Severine von Tscharner Fleming has continued presenting about Agrarian Trust (on a podcast with Charles Eisenstein, through this video from Do Lectures, and check out this video from The Land Institute), helped organize Farm Hack events in Greece and Italy, served on the advisory committee for the FAO’s AgroEcology Symposium in Rome, and has shifted into full-time farming and installing the Greenhorns headquarters and massive agricultural library into an Odd Fellows hall in downeast Maine. She has also continued to film for the Our Land film series (a new episode about the seaweed commons) and is scheming with a growing cohort about the OurLand 3 Symposium. We have secured one-third of the funding needed for a follow up to our two OurLand Symposia (see videos from our last Symposium).

Last, but hardly least, our latest effort and newest website to launch is for our Agrarian Legal Support initiative. Elizabeth has been working with Jean to build out this area of our work online and is developing partnerships to propel this initiative into its next phase. Stay tuned for more updates on this cornerstone effort.

We welcome your support for all of these exciting initiatives and look forward to sharing more progress this year.

Please consider making a contribution to support Agrarian Trust in 2018 securely on our website. Alternatively, please send any checks (payable to Agrarian Land Trust) to PO Box 86362
Portland, OR 97286.

Thank you for sharing our vision for an agrarian commons and a more just, sustainable, and equitable future.