Building Equitable Farmland Tenure Models for Northeast Farmers

Progress report for ENE21-169

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2021: $97,359.00
Projected End Date: 02/28/2023
Grant Recipients: Agrarian Trust; Northeast Farmers of Color Land Trust
Region: Northeast
State: New Hampshire
Project Leader:
David Harper
Agrarian Trust
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Project Information

Summary:

Problem and Justification

We are in a farmland access crisis: 30% of Northeast farmers are retiring; 90% do not have successors; 98% of farmland owners are white. New farmers face formidable barriers to entry: low farm income; high farm costs and debt; 7,000 acres of farmland per year lost or threatened over the last 20 years. At the same time, Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) farmers and communities seek justice and equity solutions to a racist history and policies that have excluded and marginalized them from farmland access, land security, and healthy food systems. Land access training, FarmLink, and farmland preservation address this farmland access crisis on some levels, yet solving it on all levels within an equity framework requires innovating new models of land tenure. Land access training is essential for new farmers and transitioning farm owners, but it does not focus on de-commodifying land to ensure equity and security for all farmers. Preserving farmland is essential, but it is not enough to keep farms affordable and available for production where development pressure is strong. Matching land-seeking farmers with retiring farmers is also essential, but it is not enough to overcome the burden of high land costs, debt, and/or unstable leases.  The Northeast has some of the most successful land access programs in the nation - yet new farmers and farmers of color are not gaining ground. New farmers need new solutions to the farmland access crisis. Service providers need new training offer those solutions. 

Solution and Approach

Agrarian Commons formed in VT, NH, ME, and WV to acquire, steward and lease farms to new farmers producing local food with agro-ecological practices. Equitable land tenure strategies empower communities to self-govern their land, and new and/or BIPOC farmers to have secure access to good land for life. Agrarian Trust and Northeast Farmers of Color Land Trust will offer 12 trainings and open source resource materials focused on co-learning about community landholding models for sustainable agriculture, 200 Service Providers (SP's) across these 4 states will learn through case studies how community landholding entities acquire land from transitioning farm owners, and provide affordable, long-term leases for new farmers to stay on land. 100 SP's will each mentor 5 transitioning farm owners to consider moving their land into an equitable land tenure structure as a community legacy, and 5 new farmers to consider long-term leases of community farmland as affordable, secure alternatives to buying a farm. A focus on community tenure case studies expands upon current land transition and land access options, adding layers of land justice and local self-governance, allowing SP's, farmers, and farm owners in VT, NH, ME, and WV to co-create equitable solutions to the land access crisis. 

Performance Target:

100 Service Providers in 4 states over 2 years (25 per state) will serve as Equitable Land Tenure Mentors supporting 500 farmland owners considering transitioning their land to some form of community-based land tenure, and 500 beginning and BIPOC farmers seeking farmland and considering long-term leasing of community farmland. 10 farmers who are farmland owners will take action to begin transitioning their land into some form of community-based equitable land tenure structure. 10 beginning and/or BIPOC farmers will take action to begin leasing land from a community-based equitable land tenure entity.

Introduction:

We are in a farmland access crisis: 30% of Northeast farmers are retiring; 90% do not have successors; 98% of farmlandowners are white. New farmers face formidable barriers to entry: low farm income; high farm costs and debt; 7,000acres of farmland per year lost or threatened over the last 20 years. At the same time, Black, Indigenous, and People ofColor (BIPOC) farmers and communities seek justice and equity solutions to a racist history and policies that have excluded and marginalized them from farmland access, land security, and healthy food systems.

To address these challenges, Agrarian Trust is partnering with New Roots Community Farm to host these trainings in WV. Agrarian Trust and local partners formed Agrarian Commons in VT, NH, ME, and WV to acquire, steward and lease farms to new farmers producing local food with agro-ecological practices. To build a network of well-informed advocates for equitable farmland tenure models including Agrarian Commons, Agrarian Trust and Northeast Farmers of Color Land Trust partnered to host a series of Equitable Farmland Tenure trainings for service providers in NH, VT, and ME, to serve as a model for similar trainings in Minnesota (North Central SARE PDP grant) and proposed for CA, WA, and MT (Western SARE PDP submitted).

Equitable land tenure strategies empower communities to self-govern their land, and new and/or BIPOC farmers to have secure access to good land for life. Agrarian Trust and Northeast Farmers ofColor Land Trust will offer 12 trainings and open source resource materials focused on co-learning about community landholding models for sustainable agriculture, 200 Service Providers (SP's) across these 4 states will learn through case studies how community landholding entities acquire land from transitioning farm owners, and provide affordable, long-term leases for new farmers to stay on land. 100 SP's will each mentor 5 transitioning farm owners to consider moving their land into an equitable land tenure structure as a community legacy, and 5 new farmers to consider long-term leases of community farmland as affordable, secure alternatives to buying a farm. A focus on community tenure case studies expands upon current land transition and land access options, adding layers of land justice and local self-governance, allowing SP's, farmers, and farm owners in VT, NH, ME, and WV to co-create equitable solutions to the land access crisis.

Educational Approach

Educational approach:

The Equitable Land Access Trainings will increase the capacity of 200 SP's to support equitable land transitions for retiring farmers and long-term, secure, affordable land tenure for farmers in VT, NH, ME, and WV, with a subset of 100 trained with farm-based case studies to mentor both retiring farmers and beginning farmers in how these models can provide community-based solutions. Agrarian Trust will host a series of 16 trainings over 2 years in the 4 states, with Northeast Farmers of Color Land Trust co-leading and co-learning with BIPOC service providers in 12 of those trainings VT, NH, and ME. 

In Spring of 2021, 100 attorneys, land trust professionals, extension agents and farm and food practitioners in Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and West Virginia, will receive state-specific training (25 per state) regarding community-based land tenure strategies (such as Agrarian Commons, community farms held by municipalities or nonprofits, and cooperative housing or land organizations). 

In Fall of 2021, 50 of these will self-select for further training with farm-based case studies featuring a 1-day visit to an Agrarian Commons farm to explore the entire process of transitioning land, creating the community-based landholding entity, fundraising, developing documents, stewarding land, maintaining structures, and finally leasing land with long term agreements to new farmers including BIPOC farmers. This training leads to an Equitable Land Tenure Mentorship role for each to support 5 farmland owners and 5 farmland seekers in their states in learning and understanding how these models can help support each of their land transition goals. 

In Spring of 2022 the 2nd cohort of 100 SP's will go through the same training (25 per state).

In Fall of 2022 50 more SP's will self-select for the farm-based training leading to Mentorship role with 5  farmland owners and 5 farmland seekers in their states. 

By Spring of 2023, 10 farmland owners (2 to 3 per state) will be supported by Mentors, Agrarian Trust, and Northeast Farmers of Color Land Trust as they begin the process of transitioning their land to an equitable land tenure entity in their community.  At the same time, 10 farmland seekers (2 to 3 per state) will be supported by those partners as they being leasing land from an equitable land tenure equity in their community. 

Milestones

Milestone #1 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

400 Service Providers (100 per state) will receive invitations to participate in Equitable Land Access Trainings over a two year period and will be made aware of equitable land access models and their importance to beginning and BIPOC farmers. 200 of these are expected to participate in the Trainings.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
10
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
200
Proposed Completion Date:
March 1, 2022
Status:
In Progress
Accomplishments:
Milestone #2 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

200 Service Providers will participate in one of eight Equitable Farmland Access Trainings (two each in VT, NH, ME, and WV) held in Spring of 2021 and 2022 and will experience a change in understanding and knowledge of concepts, process and steps involved in creating community-based, equitable land tenure strategies to support beginning and BIPOC farmers.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
10
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
200
Actual number of farmer beneficiaries who participated:
10
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
159
Proposed Completion Date:
July 1, 2022
Status:
In Progress
Accomplishments:

In Summer of 2021, Agrarian Trust and Northeast Farmers of Color Land Trust offered a 3-part virtual series of Equitable Farmland Tenure Co-Learning Experiences, each as a 2-hour webinar (6 hours total). These were: 
I - Land-as-Commodity: History of Land Injustices 7/19/21
II - Land Tenure Power Structure on Turtle Island 7/26/21
III - Land-as-Community: Equitable Farmland Tenure models/case studies 8/9/21
313 SPs registered from 25 states (11 of 12 NE SARE states), Washington D.C. and Canada. 159 SPs participated in the workshops (39 in all three, 43 in two, 78 in one).  This number exceeded our goal for Year 1 of 25 SPs from 4 target states (100 per year). At least 112 SPs from NE SARE states, with 44 from target states of VT (24), NH (10), and ME (10).  NY (44) and MA (11) also had high participation. Participants included attorneys, community organizers, land trust professionals, farmer mentors, farm and food system advocates, university professionals, and state, federal and local government officials. Training occurred with slide presentations, live questions and answers, and will continue as webinar videos (Spanish translation pending) are made available to all 313 registrants. 

Planning and curriculum development began in 2021 for on-farm trainings to be held in 2022 in NH with a subset of 35 to 40 SPs from the Summer 2021 cohort, and for virtual and on-farm Equitable Farmland Tenure Co-Learning Experiences for 25+ SPs to be held in 2022 in West Virginia.

Milestone #3 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

100 Service Providers (25 per state) will be selected based on the level of interest and engagement expressed in the Equitable Land Access Trainings and invited to participate as Equitable Land Access Mentors to directly assist landowners and land seekers.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
10
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
100
Proposed Completion Date:
November 1, 2022
Status:
In Progress
Milestone #4 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

100 Service Providers will participate in one of eight On-Farm Equitable Farmland Access Trainings (two each in VT, NH, ME, and WV) held in Fall of 2021 and 2022 focused on site-specific farm case studies, and will experience a change in understanding and knowledge of land acquisition, community landholding entities, stewardship of land and structures, and farmer leases to support beginning and BIPOC farmers.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
10
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
100
Proposed Completion Date:
November 1, 2022
Status:
In Progress
Milestone #5 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

100 Service Providers who become Equitable Farmland Access Mentors will experience a change in awareness leading up to Fall trainings, and commitment to sharing Equitable Farmland Tenure strategies with farmland owners interested in transitioning their land into a structure supporting new farmers, and farmland seekers including BIPOC farmers interested in accessing farmland from a secure, community-based entity, including mentorship of 5 farmland owners and 5 farmland seekers.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
10
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
100
Proposed Completion Date:
November 1, 2022
Status:
In Progress
Milestone #6 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

10 transitioning farmland owners experience a change in awareness and behavior about equitable land tenure models benefitting beginning and BIPOC farmers, and take action to begin transferring their land (through gift, bargain sale or FMV sale) to a community-based equitable land tenure entity. Follow-up emails and phone calls will be held with each of the 100 Equitable Land Tenure Mentor SP's in Fall/Winter 2021 and 2022 to monitor progress, provide mentoring advice and guidance to 5 farmland owners and 5 farmland seekers. Tracking of SP's and Mentor projects will be conducted via spreadsheet and GIS mapping in each state.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
10
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
10
Proposed Completion Date:
February 28, 2023
Status:
In Progress
Milestone #7 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

10 land seeking farmers (including BIPOC farmers) experience a change in awareness and behavior about equitable land tenure models and take action to begin entering into long-term farm leases on land held by a community-based equitable land tenure entity. Follow-up emails and phone calls will be held with each of the 100 Equitable Land Tenure Mentor SP's in Fall/Winter 2021 and 2022 to monitor progress, provide mentoring advice and guidance to 5 farmland owners and 5 farmland seekers. Tracking of SP's and Mentor projects will be conducted via spreadsheet and GIS mapping in each state.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
10
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
10
Proposed Completion Date:
February 28, 2023
Status:
In Progress

Milestone Activities and Participation Summary

Educational activities and events conducted by the project team:

1 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
3 Online trainings
3 Webinars / talks / presentations

Participants in the project’s educational activities:

313 Ag service providers (other or unspecified)
10 Farmers participated

Performance Target Outcomes

Performance Target Outcomes - Service Providers

Target #1

Target: number of service providers who will take action to educate/advise farmers:
100
Target: actions the service providers will take:

100 Service Providers in 4 states over 2 years (25 per state) will serve as Equitable Land Tenure Mentors supporting 500 farmland owners considering transitioning their land to some form of community-based land tenure, and 500 beginning and BIPOC farmers seeking farmland and considering long-term leasing of community farmland.

Target: number of farmers the service providers will educate/advise:
1000
Target: amount of production these farmers manage:

12,500 acres with gross sales of $5,000,000.

Performance Target Outcomes - Farmers

Target #1

Target: number of farmers who will make a change/adopt of practice:
20
Target: the change or adoption the farmers will make:
10 farmers who are farmland owners will take action to begin transitioning their land into some form of community-based equitable land tenure structure. 10 beginning and/or BIPOC farmers will take action to begin leasing land from a community-based equitable land tenure entity.
Target: total size/scale of farmers these farmers manage:
250 acres with gross sales of $100,000

Participants

No participants

Information Products

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.