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Agrarian Commons for Community Food Security

Agrarian Trust is forming a nationwide network of Agrarian Commons to hold farmland in trust for community-based food systems to thrive.

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In developed and developing countries around the world, people who may be considered "food secure" are facing very real concerns about food insecurity and are inspired to do something about it.  People are seeing grocery store shelves cleared, restocking slow, restaurants closed, paychecks disappear, and food chains facing serious labor shortages and economic gaps. Many face the very real possibility that, for the first time in their lives, they may join the word's poor as "food insecure" -- they do not know where their next meal is coming from. In many places, people are returning to community-based food systems for food security and food access: victory gardens; community gardens; urban farms; community supported agriculture (CSA's) and other ways to grow food close to where we live. At the community level, land security and land access is the foundation for food security and food access. Across the US, Agrarian Commons are forming to provide a secure, resilient land base for healthy food production, processing, and distribution. Agrarian Trust, a national 501(c)3 nonprofit land trust is coordinating a network of Agrarian Commons in over 10 states across the country. Agrarian Commons are community-based 501(c)2 subsidiary landholding organizations with local boards of farmers and food system stakeholders. Agrarian Commons board members and advisors can represent the full spectrum of community food system and food supply chain stakeholders: farmers and farmworkers, food processors, distributors and retailers, chefs, public health officials, composters, dietitians, educators, and food writers. All are united in solidarity supporting agrarian community vitality to provide healthy food as a human right for all.

The Agrarian Commons forming in the Southeastern US (Tennessee and Virginia), the Northeastern US (Maine and New Hampshire), the Midwestern US (Minnesota), and the Western US (California, Washington State, Montana) will provide a viable alternative to address the realities of farmland owner demographics, commodification of land and food production, wealth disparity, and farm viability in their region. In these areas, farmland is acquired by the Agrarian Commons as land gifts, discounted purchases, or fair market value purchases, then leased to farmers with long-term, affordable leases and farmed with agroecology practices.  As a result, all in the community will directly benefit from a secure land base that is held in trust for local food production. This includes Native Americans, African Americans, recent immigrants, refugees, and low income residents, many of whom belong to marginalized and excluded populations without equity in land, food, and community and who may participate as farmers, board members, business owners, and healthy eaters. 

What is the need are you focusing on?

Agrarian Trust is focusing on the need for beginning farmers to have access to affordable, secure farmland in order to meet growing demand for healthy foods as part of thriving community-based food systems. More people are now realizing that relying on national and global food supply chains is not secure or sustainable. As the baby boomer generation ages, we are in the midst of a major transition with over 400 million acres of farmland changing hands in a 20 year period. Most new farmers don't inherit or marry into farming families, and most cannot afford to purchase land that is often valued for development. Retiring farmers who sell their land are typically counting on the income for retirement or to pass to their children. New farmers often end up leasing farmland with short-term tenure, without the long-term security to warrant investments in farm buildings and infrastructure. To have truly secure regional food systems, communities need land security, and farmers need land.

What is the best example of business adaption you’ve seen in response to COVID-19?

Local farmers who lost restaurant business are expanding production and shifting to weekly door-to-door box deliveries for people not going to restaurants and trying to stay out of grocery stores. It is inspiring because it could stick -- in communities across the country, more people may continue to buy their food from local farmers.

What is your profession?

Land conservation

Where are you located (country)?

United States

Where are you located (region)?

  • North America

Which industry do you work in?

  • Agriculture/Farming
  • Non-Profit/Philanthropy

Are you aware of any open source efforts, hackathons or other collaborative efforts related to your submission? Are you participating in these efforts?

Food System Vision Prize (not approved)

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