In the next two decades, it is predicted that 400 million acres of U.S. farmland will change hands. What happens to that land when it reaches the market is crucial to the future of our food system, and current trends point in the wrong direction. The price of land in the U.S. has skyrocketed in the past decade, driven by an unregulated, speculative marketplace, international investment, a distorted subsidy system, and by unrestrained development pressure. Our nation’s land policy pretends its 1840 and that we have space enough and land enough to waste this common resource.
In this crucial moment of land transition, a new generation of young farmers has emerged. These willing workers, land stewards, and community farm entrepreneurs are already growing a powerful local food economy around the country. The demand for organic food is strong and growing, and with a changing climate, the urgency for restoration, ecological stewardship, and conservation is becoming more evident. Yet the majority of young farmers struggle with land access, affordability, and tenure. The price of farmland is not justified by the profitability of the farming business, stacking the odds against today’s incoming agrarians.
We need to chart the way forward. We need to hold our precious farmland in a trust for its best uses—sustainable food production and ecological stewardship. We must to help the incoming organic leadership build on the legacy of our organic elders, many who have been farming for more than 30 years, and keep organic land in production. We need to support the stakeholders engaged in complex land succession, with all the accounting, estate planning, retirement planning and legal and technical assistance that is necessary. We need a national conversation that leads to action, and traction for sustainable farming at the foundation of a new, more just economy. Finally, we need policy reform to strengthen democratic ownership and control of our nation’s farmland. We all have allegiance to the land that feeds us. We all share responsibility for our fate on that land.
Agrarian Trust was founded in 2013 as a project of the Schumacher Center for New Economics and Greenhorns, and is now an independent 501c3 organization based in California. Agrarian Trust proposes a set of actions which contribute to the solution to the “land question” our country faces.
Agrarian Trust’s goals are to:
1. Build the issue of farmland access
2. Support the stakeholders in our field
3. Hold farmland in common
We hope you will join us.