From Land Grab to Land Trust

Farmland – Photo by Sam Beebe, Ecotrust.

The cost of farmland — and food – continues to spiral upward. The global land grab is in full swing, and the consequences of this grab are just beginning to emerge. In that context, it is important to reconsider the whole basis of the matter: our relationship to land.

I encourage everyone involved with food and farming to weigh the matter carefully, for there is a world to gain from the steady, ongoing establishment of community farm trusts to hold farm land and make it available to qualified farmers with provisions for equity. To me that seems the wisest course of action over the long term for so many of the community agrarian initiatives active now in North America.

Back in 1988-89, when Trauger Groh and I were writing the first book about CSAs (Farms of Tomorrow: Community Supported Farms, Farm Supported Communities) we could not help but recognize the matter of land as a key point.

Land — and the way we relate to it — has been the crucial issue for centuries, and will remain so. From a long discussion in Chapter 2 of the book,  here are a few relevant passages advocating the development of community farms and land trusts in this context:

“For the farms of tomorrow, land cannot be used as a commodity or a tradeable good, like a car or a pair of shoes that are produced, sold, used, resold, and finally used up…the farms of tomorrow must be based on a new approach to land. The land can no longer be used as collateral for debt. It should no longer be mortgaged. It must be free to serve its original purpose: the basis of the physical existence of humanity…

“…The land has to be liberated out of the insight and actions of citizens who recognize the essential need. Specifically, local land suitable for agriculture must be gradually protected by land trusts. To do this, every piece of farmland has to be purchased for the last time, and then, out of the free initiative of local people, be placed into forms of trust that will protect it from ever again being mortgaged or sold for the sake of private profit…”

“Non-profit land trusts may then make the land available to qualified people who want to take it into ecologically sound uses. Such arrangements will give the right of land use to individuals or groups, either for the time they are willing or capable of using it, or in a lifelong contract…

“…This is something that cannot be legislated or otherwise imposed in any way upon humanity. Every step of progress will have to arise out of the insights and the free initiative of the people.”


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