Agrarian Trust’s mission is to support land access for next generation farmers.
Financial speculators, industrial agriculture powerhouses, and wealthy nonfarmers are seizing the moment and snatching up farms across the country. We can’t let their consolidation and commodification of land go unchecked.
To counter these giant forces, we need a different model for farmland ownership, tenure, and equity. Something rooted in community that values people and the planet over profit. We have the tools, the knowledge, and the power to make this transformation together.
The average US farm owner is over 62 years old, and 37 midsize farms permanently close every day across the country. More than 400 million acres of US farmland will change hands during this decade and the next. Meanwhile, the next generation of eager and capable farmers struggle to access farmland.
The gross inequities of farmland access are a big problem. Most farmland is owned by nonfarmers who treat it as just another investment—a vehicle for development, extraction, and speculation instead of for resilience and community. The vast majority (80 percent) of farmworkers are people of color, yet people of color own just a tiny fraction of US farmland—less than 2 percent.
We’re living with a farming system that’s rooted in unjust landownership and destructive practices. A legacy of colonial exploits and extraction. Left unchallenged, this system will smother us all—humans, animals, and plants—and poison the earth.
Imagine a world where every farmer has equitable and affordable land tenure and every community has access to healthy local food produced in ways that regenerate ecosystems and our social bonds. That’s our vision.
Through initiatives like the Agrarian Commons and the Commons Alliance, we are helping communities radically transform farmland ownership and tenure. That means re-centering equity and community, regenerating the earth, and supporting the next generation of farmers with equitable, secure access to farmland. Together, we can make farmland the foundation of a harmonious, mutualistic relationship between the soil, water, and their connected ecosystems—including a well-nourished humanity.
Why Farmland Access Matters
The economics of agriculture are broken.
Market-based farmland prices are totally out of step with what farmers can afford from actually working the land in a sustainable way. Even if the real estate market were reasonable, starting a farm business is already a capital-intensive process—from buying a tractor to building barns and fences to hiring farmhands. Stack on the cost of living, day-to-day operations, market pressures of our cheap-food economy, perishability, and unpredictable weather, and you can see why it takes a brave soul to enter agricultural entrepreneurship.
Local farms are exactly what our rural economy needs. Imagine more producers operating at an appropriate scale—with the ability to create jobs, care for the soil and water, and produce healthy food for the people around them. These kinds of farms are cornerstones of thriving communities. And they need support, both to get off the ground and sustain themselves in the long run.
Each year a new crop of eager apprentices enter the field. They train with experienced mentors in Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training (C.R.A.F.T.) programs, incubator programs, extension education, and more. We have seen an explosion of new farm start-ups in the last decade—but older farmers (age 65 and up) still outnumber younger farmers (age 35 and under) by six to one. As a nation, we have an abundance of high-quality agricultural land and simply need the best farmers and farming techniques to sustain our lands—and ourselves.
How Do We Address Farmland Access?
Agrarian Trust protects farmland for sustainable agriculture and preserves its affordability for new and disadvantaged farmers. We do this by buying, holding, and permanently protecting farmland in communities across the country through our unique Commons approach. We offer new tools for landowners and retiring farmers to partner with beginning and under-resourced farmers, strengthening our local food economies.
By owning farmland outright, Agrarian Trust is able to permanently preserve farmland and enter into long-term leases with farmers who can’t afford the increasingly high cost of entry into the agricultural economy. Through lease restrictions and agricultural easements on the land it owns, Agrarian Trust can remove these barriers while requiring organic farming practices, maintaining affordability for future farmers, and ensuring that sensitive ecosystems are protected.
Through a variety of tools, we help landowners ensure an equitable transfer while pursuing long-term conservation and farm-legacy goals.
As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Agrarian Trust provides landowners with tax benefits for donation or bargain sale transfer. Agrarian Trust then transfers land to its 501(c)(2) title-holding corporation, which gives greater flexibility and community control to the local Commons that will steward the land in perpetuity.
Agrarian Trust amplifies the issue of land access by convening thought leaders, organizing and collaborating on conferences, giving talks, and publishing communications about land transition. We also support stakeholders with information, online resources, access stories, land and job listings, networks, and the Commons Alliance—a network of aligned land trusts, organizations, communities, and other land-access advocates.