Building Equitable Farmland Tenure Models for Northeast Farmers

Project Overview

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

Commodities

Not commodity specific

Practices

  • Education and Training: mentoring
  • Farm Business Management: land access

    Proposal abstract:

    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 targets from proposal:

    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.

    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.