Across the United States, a new generation of farmers is emerging — young people hoping to live lightly, sustainably and well, as responsible stewards of land and members of thriving rural communities. That’s the good news. The bad news is that for most farmers of this generation, the chances of gaining affordable and secure land tenure are very slim. Land prices are rising almost everywhere, mostly as a consequence of development: according to Agrarian Trust, one acre of US farmland is lost to development every minute.
Development pressures are particularly high near urban centers, where land prices are skyrocketing. At the same time, demand for local organic food in these urban areas is also growing, providing opportunities for numerous small diversified farms nearby — if the farmers can find affordable land. Resolving this dilemma is one reason why The Agrarian Trust was created. Originally launched in 2013 as a project of the Schumacher Center for New Economics, Agrarian Trust works in many ways to connect young farmers with the land they need. They have called attention to the problem by convening thought leaders for conferences and talks, producing films and publishing articles on land transition and other related topics. They support stakeholders by providing information and resources, land and job listings, and through The Agrarian Lawyers Network. Importantly, Agrarian Trust also owns farmland, which they lease to young farmers: “By owning farmland outright, Agrarian Trust is able to permanently preserve farmland and enter into long-term leases with farmers who can’t afford the increasingly high cost of entry into the agricultural economy. Through lease restrictions and agricultural easements on the land it owns, Agrarian Trust can remove these barriers while requiring organic farming practices, maintaining affordability for future farmers, and ensuring that sensitive ecosystems are protected.” “In the next two decades,” Agrarian Trust points out, “400 million acres of U.S. farmland will change hands, and the question of what will happen to that land when it reaches the market is crucial to the future of our food system.” Learn more at www.agrariantrust.org.