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Updates and future plans from Agrarian Trust.
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Dear Agrarian Trust allies,
 
Happy New Year!

This is a follow-up report nearly a year out from the formation of Agrarian Trust in early 2013, sharing with our community of supporters what we accomplished in 2013 and what lies ahead for 2014.
 
Agrarian Trust was formed at a gathering of land access stakeholders, policy experts and farmers last January at Paicines Ranch in California. If you want to review a summary of outcomes and notes from this formative first meeting, you can do so here.
 
Agrarian Trust is now online, and established as a program of the Schumacher Center for New Economics.
 
In April of 2013, Kendra Johnson, Severine Fleming, and Kristen Loria completed the guidebook “Affording our land: a farmers guide to farm finance options.” It is now online, and available for free to download. This guidebook is meant as a compilatory resource for farmers looking for land, as well as service providers who are supporting farmers and/or landowners in this shared goal.
 
In the last 6 months of 2013 our primary focus for Agrarian Trust was on proposal writing, fundraising, and planning the 2014 programming. We were glad that this went quite well with a total income of $65,000 to date.
 
Looking forward to 2014:
 
As determined in our meeting last year, the principles that underlie land transition are the foundation of this work.  These principles underlie all our activities; whether financial, cultural, educational or transactional. Coming out of the last meeting, we realized how important facilitation would be in the next meeting, and in consultation with Peter Forbes and Dave Henson (both experienced in land conservation, group process and facilitation) we determined that a key to moving forward was an explicit list of values, guidelines and principles for Agrarian Trust.  
 
Our goal for 2014 is to focus on the cultural conversation about land, continue gathering and documenting case studies and models, and research and preparing to build the mechanism for land transaction in 2015.
 
Other goals for the program:

1. Build the issue of Land Access through public programming, press outreach and messaging.
2. Support the network of practitioners as well as farmers looking for land.
 
 
Now, the schedule of confirmed activities for 2014.
  
1. Paicines First Principles of Agrarian Trust  Meeting March 13-15, Paicines CA
We will again convene a meeting of about 20 stakeholders to refine the underlying principles that will guide our work together with Agrarian Trust.
 
2. Symposium on Land Access, April 26, 2014, Berkeley CA
A day-long symposium addressing many aspects of our focal land access issue. Co-sponsored by Chelsea Green and the Berkeley Food Institute.
 
Wes Jackson, The Land Institute (Kansas)
Joel Salatin, Polyface Farm, (Virginia)
Sjoerd Wartena, Terre de Liens, (France)
Elizabeth Henderson, Peaceworks Farm, (New York)
Gary Nabhan, Author/ Professor, (Arizona)
Raj Patel, Writer/Activist, (San Francisco)
Eric Holt-Gimenez, Food First, (Oakland)
*invited Janaina Stronzake, M.S.T Landless Peasants Movement, (Brazil)
*invited Winona LaDuke, White Earth Land Recovery Project, (Minnesota)
 
3. Professional development workshops
Starting on March 29, 2014 Agrarian Trust will be convening 10 workshops. Organized regionally, these will generate "open source" curriculum modules for use by farmers and farm service providers for professional development. The first workshop is a Negotiation and Communications Training for farmers and farm service professionals.  This workshop is co-sponsored by NYAMP (New York Agricultural Mediation Program) and taught by Charlotte Carter, State Director of NYAMP.
 
We will be sending notifications about all these workshops at a later date.
 
We hope you will continue to watch out for innovative models, and forward them along to myself or to Kristen Loria kal52@cornell.edu, who has joined Brooke Werley and Severine as part of the Agrarian Trust team after more than 2 years working on Greenhorns and Farm Hack to help coordinate the Paicines event, Symposium, publications, web-stories, and the upcoming workshops!
 
Looking forward to keeping the conversations flowing, and thank you all for being a part of the network.
 
Sincerely,
 
Severine, Kristen, Brooke
 


All financial contributions to Agrarian Trust are tax-deductible, and can be made out to Schumacher Center for New Economics (with Agrarian Trust in the "note").

Mailing Address:
Schumacher Center for a New Economics
140 Jug End Road
Great Barrington, MA 01230
 

FARM PROFILE: GREYROCK FARM

Matt Volz had been working the small farm circuit on either side of Lake Champlain, both in upstate New York and Vermont, when he decided to head back to the town he calls home, Cazenovia, NY. “I was really looking for a management position,” Matt recalls, “I wanted to save enough money to eventually buy a farm.”

greybarn

Cazenovia is in Madison County, located right in the center on New York State. Matt started out looking for farmwork through a list of farms compiled by theMadison County Agricultural Economic Development Committee. One of the farms on that list led him to Kaye Osbourne. “I heard that Kaye had land to rent out, so I contacted her. At the time I thought it was something that might work out down the road.”

The two met up in 2010. “She took me for a walk around the farm,” Matt said. She told him the story of the property, which had been owned and farmed by the family for 100 years, and had been operated as a dairy by Kaye until the late 1980s. “She was hoping someone would come along and want to farm the land.”

“What she was describing lined up very well with what I wanted to do,” Matt remembers. “She said — Come up with a business plan, and we’ll go from there.”

Read the rest of the story here

WHY Agrarian Trust?


Farmland Access remains a keystone issue for the next generation of farmers in the country and for farming as a whole.  In historical terms, the "agricultural use value" and "real-estate value" of land have never been more polarized. This means that the value that you can earn from production on the land is far below the value of the land in the marketplace.

As a consequence, financing of land adds to the the high capital needs of a start-up farm business (restoring barn, cooling, greenhouses, fencing, pasture upgrades, equipment etc) along with inevitable life and operations costs: healthcare, gasoline, housing. In a cheap-food economy, earning enough to pay for these costs presents a major challenge for new farm operators. Add on to this un-predictable weather and a persishable product, and you can see why it takes a brave soul to enter agricultural entrepreneurship.

And yet this is exactly what our rural economy needs - more producers operating at an appropriate scale, with the ability to create jobs, care for the soil and water, and produce healthy food. We must also rebuild regional infrastructure: cold storage, juice presses, creameries, co-packers, aggregators. These farms produce goods of community value, and we must employ tools which allow such producers to thrive.

Each year, a new crop of eager apprentices enter the field, training with experienced mentors. We have seen an explosion of new farm startups in the last 8 years, but  farmers 65 and older still outnumber farmers 35 and younger by a factor of 6:1. (USDA census). As a nation, we have an abundance of high quality agricultural land and simply need the best farmers and farming techniques to sustain our lands, and ourselves.

Agrarian Trust
Schumacher Center for a New Economics
140 Jug End Road
Great Barrington, MA 01230
 
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