Black farmers have developed countless creative and enduring responses to the challenges of discrimination and disinvestment in US agriculture. Far too many of the initiatives led by Black farmers in the past did not thrive due in part to a hostile social and political climate that devalued and discouraged their efforts. The continued work of organizations such as the Federation of Southern Cooperatives helps ensure that the innovative approaches to land ownership and agricultural production developed by Black farmers will be recognized and documented, as well as carried forward by future generations. We still have much to learn from the history of Black farmers in America.
Concepts such as agroecology, biodynamics, permaculture, food miles, food deserts, food justice, and local food have all proliferated in both popular and scholarly venues over the past ten to fifteen years. Such a sustainable agriculture gestalt is vibrant and worthy of more sustained discussion and critical attention. In this spirit, “The Spirit of Sustainable Agriculture” aims to bring together farmers, religious and spiritual leaders, and academics, respectively, to join in a robust and stimulating discussion about the spirit of sustainable agriculture, delineating its past, celebrating and investigating its present, and theorizing its future.
In the context of global warming, issues of access to land and water have been revived at a moment of disappearing land, mass migration, foreclosures, evictions, rent hikes, land grabs, and the privatization of clean water. We believe that now is a vital moment for academics and activists to enter a shared conversation about control and access to land and water, naming the most formidable challenges, the utopian models, and the important historical analogues for our present moment.
About 50% of Midwestern landowners in Iowa are women. Many of these women are non-operator farm-owners whose spouses have passed away. The Women, Food and Agriculture Network (WFAN) has been serving these Midwestern women farmers and farmland owners since their founding as a non-profit project in 1997. The network was created to provide information, networking and leadership development opportunities to women working in sustainable agriculture and food systems development.
The story of Temple-Wilton Community Farm is one of community and commitment, persistence, and vision. As a community-based farm, Temple-Wilton provides support for its farmers and food security for its members. The farm exemplifies how Agrarian Trust might protect a working farm in perpetuity as a kind of ‘agrarian commons’ while upholding the values of access, affordability, and land security.
Investing in small-scale agriculture is not always seen as a secure investment. Sharing the risk by using a split mortgage helped Blue Ox Organics farmers Lauren and Caleb Langworthy buy their land.
The American Farmland Trust (AFT) is a pioneer in organizing planned donation of land for agricultural preservation. Their Forever Farmland Society (FFS) offers a way for farm-owners to include AFT in their estate planning.
Our Table Co-op is the farm business part of a three organization system, all working together to realize a shared vision. The group started when their non-profit fiscal arm, Community by Design, LLC, purchased the 58-acre farm in Sherwood, OR, in September of 2011.
The 14,000-member La Montañita Co-op runs the La Montañita (LaM) Fund, a member-funded micro-lending program for food system producers and cooperative businesses in New Mexico. The fund provides affordable one-, three-, and five-year notes for small- and medium-scale projects that increase sustainable production.
In a uniquely collaborative arrangement developed by the Schumacher Center for a New Economics, the Community Land Trust in the Southern Berkshires, the Berkshire Highlands Program of The Nature Conservancy, and farmers Elizabeth Keen and Alex Thorp joined together to purchase Indian Line Farm in southwestern Massachusetts. The aims of the partnership are to preserve the first CSA farm project in North America, to maintain it as a working organic farm, to protect the adjacent sensitive wetlands, and to provide small-scale farmers access to affordable farmland.