We are in a farmland access crisis. As farmers retire, new farmers of all kinds face entry barriers: low farm income; high farm costs, debt, and loss of farmland. Farmers and communities nationally and in Southern states seek land justice and equitable land access solutions to longstanding discrimination. Programs for land access, farm link, and farmland preservation address this crisis, yet solving it within an equity framework requires innovating new models of land tenure.
Agrarian Trust (a national 501c3 nonprofit) has formed Agrarian Commons (501c2 landholding subsidiaries) in 10 states, including Minnesota, to acquire, steward and lease farms to new farmers producing local food with agro-ecological practices. With training and Agrarian Commons resource materials, Agricultural Service Providers (ASP’s) across Minnesota will learn how community landholding entities acquire land from transitioning farm owners (gift, bargain sale, FMV sale), and provide affordable, long-term leases for new
farmers to stay on land. ASP’s will help transitioning farm owners to consider moving their land into a Commons or other equitable land tenure structure as their legacy. ASP’s will also help new farmers to consider lifetime leases of land in a Commons or other community-based land tenure solutions as an affordable, secure alternative to buying a farm, including Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) farmers. The target audience for trainings will include: Land Trust Professionals; Attorneys working with transitioning farm owners; Cooperative Extension Agents; NRCS employees; Local Food and Farm Organizations seeking land access and land security solutions for local farms and farmers.
Project objectives from proposal:
Equitable Land Tenure Training (ELT) Curriculum (bilingual) – this will be developed as an extension of an initial online, open source Agrarian Commons resource library currently being developed by Vermont Law School and Agrarian Trust. This resource will be expanded to highlight ELT case study farms and models being used in various states and in Minnesota, including a how-to manual with founding documents for entities holding land for community sustainable agriculture access (articles of incorporation per state law, bylaws, good faith understanding agreements, equitable long-term farm/ground leases, fundraising strategies, etc).
Information will be available to all ASPs in digital and print form as part of each training, with more detailed case study farm materials offered to Mentor ASPs. Bilingual Swahili-English or Somali-English translation will be provided where necessary. All materials will be available online.
ELT Farm Case Study Videos (bilingual) — A primary educational product for this project will be short videos highlighting ELT case study farms in Minnesota, and the stories behind how they came to be, how they operate, and how they will positively impact sustainable agriculture, family farm
operations, and rural communities. Agrarian Trust and its partners in the Northeast and Southeast have developed a series of short videos that effectively communicate key concepts about equitable land tenure: the concept of a community-based Commons land tenure model; the perspective and intent of farmland owners who chose to participate in it through gift or sale of their farmland; the leasing farmers who chose to enter into long term leases on that land rather than purchase or lease privately, and the benefits offered to all. These videos have proven highly effective in community-based fundraising campaigns (ME, WV, TN) to acquire farmland for community benefit.
Minnesota Equitable Land Tenure Network — among the 50 Mentors in Minnesota, and the other 50 ELT trainees, Agrarian Trust, Minnesota Agrarian Commons and project coordination partners
will maintain ongoing video conference meetings and email list serves, and e-newsletter updates among the Minnesota Equitable Land Tenure Network members to continue sharing progress reports from each part of the state, advance learning about ELT options and opportunities, and increase promotion of ELT models in support of viable farms, sustainable agriculture and community food systems across the region. This Network will connect with a national network of counterparts associated with Agrarian Trust projects in the Western region (CA, WA, MT), Northeast (VT, NH, ME, WV), and Southeast (TN, VA, Puerto Rico), each of
which are candidates for similar SARE PDP programs or, in the case of Northeast, an active recipient of a SARE PDP grant.