West Virginia Agrarian Commons
Supporting food production, access, security, and equity to realize a new land-based economy in the post-coal region of Southern West Virginia.
The West Virginia Agrarian Commons is collaborating with Agrarian Trust, the Fayette County Farmland Protection Board, the Fayette County Commission, Fayette County Urban Renewal Authority, and Fayette County Resource Coordinator’s Office to support food production, access, security, and equity to realize a new land-based economy in the post-coal region of Southern West Virginia.
Funds raised will acquire the 82 acre Whitlock Farm, currently owned by the Fayette County Farmland Protection Board. The West Virginia AC will then convey two equitable 99+year leases to New Roots Community Farm and an emerging agricultural producer cooperative.
- New Roots Community Farm will continue work in the food access space, further develop models for producer and consumer education regarding food system issues, and continue aggregation and distribution of local food products as members of Turnow: Appalachian Farm Collective.
- The agricultural producer cooperative will collectively farm vegetables, flowers, fruit, meat, poultry and mushrooms. This multiple-leaseholder collaboration will serve as a model of a cooperative labor system and progressive agroecological production practices-- widely applicable across the region.
New Roots Community Farm and the producer cooperative will work closely together to address identified barriers in the development of a just food system.
The West Virginia Agrarian Commons is a new and innovative model for further preserving Appalachia’s proud agrarian way of life in community-centered land-holding entities. The commons will provide affordable land access, permanent and equitable land tenure, investments in soil and ecosystem health, as well as layered enterprise and partnership opportunities for next generation farmers. The West Virginia AC's vision of community ownership resounds in possibilities for Appalachian people. This is a stark contrast to the historic trend of land accumulation by absentee land holding and development companies.
New Roots Community Farm
New Roots Community Farm is a nonprofit leading a collaborative multi-farm movement to build a more just and diverse agricultural system for the region.
"When this property is transferred into the Agrarian Commons, that will provide long-term stability for New Roots Community Farm. We are very excited to work in unison with the Commons, the Agrarian Trust, our local county governments, and other project partners to combine our programmatic work and add a robust land access initiative. We also hope that our experience as a farm leasing land from the Commons can be shared and communicated in a way that supports the success of other farmers following in our path.” - Susanna Wheeler, NRCF Farm Director and West Virginia AC President
Through a partnership with Tunrow Appalachian Farm Collective, New Roots has helped aggregate over 30 new producers over the past 2.5 years, expanding food access for 200% new customers through local markets. While the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated food security gaps, diverse food system stakeholder partnerships (schools, retail sector, food banks and pantries, individuals) and new protocols like drive-up vehicle deliveries have been implemented to respond to the growing need. New Roots is able to leverage its physical assets to support market growth for regional producers, serving as a sales, aggregation, and distribution partner. Susanna Wheeler writes more about the importance of this project in this article published for the West Virginia Environmental Council.
Agricultural Producer Cooperative
An emerging agricultural producer cooperative is forming and will become the second leaseholder of the new West Virginia Agrarian Commons. Whereas New Roots Community Farm encompasses multiple programmatic initiatives including education and training, the cooperative will focus on creating an integrated and coordinated farm operation that incorporates livestock, poultry, vegetables, flowers and mushrooms. The Cooperative hopes to demonstrate the value this type of enterprise provides for the farmer and the community. In addition to providing land access for next generation farmers to produce diversified food for community consumption, the land stewardship practices on the farm will improve and restore habitats including wetlands, streams, and some forests. Four experienced farmers are identified to lead the forming of this cooperative with more farmers to come.
Incoming Next Generation Farmers
Susanna Wheeler currently serves as the Farm Director for New Roots Community Farm and will be a member of the cooperative. These two projects represent a culmination of her passions, academic pursuits, and experiences over the past decade. She is humbled to work alongside her friends and allies in building communities with access to the beauty and benefits of an agrarian life. AS a member of the cooperative she will build upon her knowledge of intensive vegetable production, while increasing her involvement in livestock management. Ms. Wheeler will coordinate operations within the cooperative and serve as a facilitator between the WV Agrarian Commons, the cooperative and New Roots Community Farm.
Tyler Cannon is the Production Manager at New Roots Community Farm. He supported the project in its early stages in January to March of 2019, and is thankful to return. He will become a member of the producer cooperative when it is developed, and his goals as a member of the cooperative are to develop a small fruits enterprise and to incorporate livestock into tree fruit management. He would also like to use perennial companion plants to increase and support biodiversity on the farm and to create diverse income streams while reducing mowing, pest control, and other labor inputs in a small fruit and orchard setting.
Josh Stover of Stover Heritage Farms. Josh and his family have been landless farmers for the past 10 years. The Stovers practice pasture based, regenerative farm raising pastured poultry, pastured Heritage Breed pork, grass fed lamb, and grass fed and finished beef. They understand the realities of farming; including the high cost of entry and the difficulty of building an operation without long term security on the land. Participating in the cooperative will allow them to have the security needed to live out their dreams of producing top quality craft meat from happy and healthy livestock.
Dina Hornbaker has been working with New Roots Community Farm during their first production year and will continue serving as the Aggregation, Distribution and Sales Manager. Dina’s background in farming and permaculture has led her to farm internationally and here at home. She is not only passionate about local foods and ensuring healthy soils, but has deepened her knowledge into the fungi world and the important role it plays. Dina’s farming plans include growing gourmet and medicinal mushrooms as part of the cooperative.
- Public News Service: WV Group Aims to Acquire Former Coal Land for New Farmers
- WV Environmental Council: Building a Resilient Food and Agriculture System in the Mountain State
- Montgomery Herald: West Virginia AC raising funds for New Roots Community Farm
- Reuters: 'Commons' effort seeks to keep U.S. farmland affordable - indefinitely
- West Virginia Explorer: Fayette County to unveil region's first community farm
- ABC: Fayetteville’s New Roots Community Farm brings new face to farming
- ABC: Old Whitlock Farm Gets New Roots
With your support, Agrarian Trust and the West Virginia Agrarian Commons will purchase the 82-acre Whitlock farm in Fayeteville, West Virginia.
Farm Acquisition: $225,000
Project Costs: $33,000
$258,000 total needed to acquire the farm
Additional post acquisition philanthropic and investment funding is needed; $98,000 for management, stewardship, and endowment and $200,000 for farm investment in renewable energy and building and infrastructure needs to increase food production, efficiency, and sustainability.
Donate Today to Support the
West Virginia Agrarian Commons
Your donations will fund the purchase of the farm and permanent land security for next generation farmers and communities in West Virginia. To pay by check or make a recurring donation click here.
Give to the West Virginia Agrarian Commons
Agrarian Trust is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Your donations are 100% tax-deductible.
To make a recurring monthly donation, please use our alternative form here (opens in a new window).
To pay by check, please mail to:
Agrarian Trust, 22 Buxton School Road, Weare, NH 03281
Pay to the order of: Agrarian Trust
Memo line: "WV Agrarian Commons"
THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT!
Patagonia came forth with strong support for this project with a $15,000 donation
Actor Jason Marsden donated $250 to the West Virginia Agrarian Commons (Watch on Instagram)
$10,000 was donated by an anonymous individual who supports this project
$25,000 was donated by a food business that sources local meats and supports the West Virginia Agrarian Commons
$2,000 was received from a Schwab Charitable donor advised fund
To view all partners and find out more about partnering with us click here.