Dear friends of Agrarian Trust,
Thank you for your interest in Agrarian Trust, and the Farmland Commons project.
As you may recall we have 3 parts to our mission:
1. Cultural momentum. Build visibility of the land access issue, and the motivation to solve it.
2. Land transfer. Support stakeholders with land transition and succession by providing inspiration, resources, stories, programming, legal tools and a technical assistance referral network.
3. Farmland Commons. Create a community ownership model that embodies 'best practices' for the land and its stewards.
Our little startup team (Severine Fleming, Brooke Werley, Ann Marie Rubin) have spent a busy winter researching, fundraising, web-site building, and in meetings with the wonderful lawyers.
I'm happy to report that we are on track, and inspired by the year ahead! Glad to be joined by lawyer, and new agrarian Nick Martinelli as we move into roll-out.
Here's an outline of our report to you all:
I. Upcoming Events
II. Startup Team
III. Most recent publication
IV. Paicines Statement
V. Legal Process with SELC
VI. Fundraising success + needs
VII. Regional Committees
VIII. The Commons
IX. Public Talks from 2014
X. Agrarian Lawyers
Lets do this!
I. Upcoming Events:
Agrarian Trust's Severine v T Fleming and Sustainable Economies Law Center's Janelle Orsi to give Friday night keynote at Public Interest Environmental Law Conference, at the University of Oregon.
PIELC unites more than 3,000 activists, attorneys, students, scientists, and concerned citizens from over 50 countries around the globe to share their experience and expertise. Past keynote speakers include Robert Kennedy, Ralph Nader, David Brower, Terry Tempest Williams, Ward Churchill, Vandana Shiva, Paul Watson, Winona LaDuke, Gerry Spence, Ramona Africa, Paul Hawken, and several recipients of the international Goldman Environmental Prize. We are very pleased to share the farmland commons project with this audience, recruit these environmental lawyers into the new economies.
Our Land in transition film screenings March 17-18 at the David Brower Center in Berkeley, California. These events, co-sponsored by our friends at California Farmlink and Berkeley Food Institute, are open to the public, we hope to see you there!
March 17 Brookford Almanac,
7pm with Severine v T Fleming, Doniga Markegard, Markegard Family Grassfed
March 18 Hanna Ranch,
7pm with Joe Morris, Morris Grassfed Beef
Kelly Mulville, Paicines Ranch
Helena Norberg Hodge, Local Futures
moderated by Severine v T Fleming
Meanwhile, please save the dates for:
Fund-raiser and Farm Gift Legacy Planning Santa Fe, New Mexico
Fund-raiser and Farm Gift Legacy Planning, Minneapolis, MN
Fund-raiser and Farm Gift Legacy Planning Sag Harbor, NY
** We have a number of future events in the planning phase. Please let us know if you can offer to help throw a Fund-raiser or Farm-gift legacy planning event in your community.
II. Start-Up Team
click for bios.
Severine Fleming, director
Nick Martinelli, J.D.
Ann Marie Rubin, J.D.
III. Our most recent publication
Greenhorns' Benevolent Investors Guide to Land ("The B.I.G. to Land"), was created to support wealthy individuals who would like to invest in organic agriculture, in sustainable farming, and farmers. We wrote it in response to the tremendous interest in social-investment, and partnering with young farmers. We applaud this interest, and have cataloged the frequent mis-steps and dramatic-fallouts from poor planning, this is a guidebook with useful FAQs and structural approaches to successful investment in sustainable agriculture. We’re currently in lay-out for this publication, to request a physical copy of the guidebook please email email@example.com with your mailing address. As soon as it is formatted, we’ll post it online.
IV. Our Process with SELC
It has been such a pleasure working with Janelle Orsi, Chris Tittle, Neil Thapar and Sara Stephens from the SELC team. Sustainable Economies Law Center specializes in creating transactional legal structures that support the sharing economy. Read about their award-winning work HERE. Happy as clams scheming, we sit drinking green tea in the Oakland Hub, building a strong-as-diamonds legal container to hold the land commons, as well as the intake-process, governance procedures, contractual relationships with local land trusts and farm-stewards, creating the formulas for valuing the 'working assets' of the farms,
V. Our Fundraising success!
We're glad to report that the legal costs of Agrarian Trust have been borne by a grant from the Gaia Foundation, and an incredible boost by the World Centric Impact Accelerator and the Hope Foundation. Thanks to this support we have been able to stay on schedule thus far. We are continuing our work researching the many working-models of land transfer, and maintaining our referral network of agrarian lawyers, land/jobs listings, stories, and land news.
Immediate funding needs
75K to hire the first full time executive staff
30K to pay development & operations team-member
20K to pay for part time contract work by founding director and board-member, Severine.
20K for our stakeholder support team, our wonderful part-time writers and coordinators, keeping up with Land News, farmland inquiries, press and posting the Strategies and Stories online.
10K for our events in Oakland and New York
8k for our brand new website designed by artist Amy Franceschini and her firm FutureFarmers.
5K to print and distribute the Benevolent Investors Guide to Land, and our postcards for events.
VI. Donation page
Please help with our immediate funding needs, your support at this stage has long term and profound impacts. We will accept 501c3 tax-deductible donations through The Greenhorns (please include "Agrarian Trust" in check or paypal memo). Agrarian Trust has not yet filed for incorporation in California as we need our new board to approve the by-laws in person. (This will happen quite soon)
VII. Regional Committee's RFP
From Elinor Ohrstrom's Rules of the Commons, we have learned that a nested, decentralized structure is the most resilient and adaptive to the very regionally-specific needs of ecosystem managers. The legal structures we have created allow for different categories of membership, cross-protect the land from ever being sold again, using a fee-holding structure with a 501c3, 501c2, as well as a trust. For those of you interested in the legal minutia-- we have written all our legal-documents on Git-Hub, an open-source platform that programmers use to share code-- in this way, our 'gold-standard' agreements can be made transparent to inform future practitioners.
VIII. The Grange, the commons, the Farmland commons
As many of you may know, this winter I've have been on the "Grange Future” tour with Greenhorns, we've hit 13 Grange halls so far with an ever-changing program of panelists, potlucks, seed swaps and community conversations. Why are we dashing from Grange to Grange, you may ask yourself? What is so potent about a 150 year old fraternal order with thousands of community halls located in agricultural towns across America? What role do they play in facilitating land transfer? How can these halls hold an inter-generational discourse about the institution's radical populist history, and how to reconfigure our infrastructure to make possible a resilient, regional food economy for future generations? It was clear, in the Capay valley at least, that the Grange community may well be the social organ that holds these land transactions together. Here's a press piece on that.
Greenhorns, the organization I founded 8 years ago in a basement in Berkeley to make a film about young farmers, is impetus. Its a film about the movement of direct-action, taking our critique into our hands and bodies, and enacting that critique through creative entrepreneurship on the land. Between the film, the radio, and the surveys we circulated at screenings-- we discovered and mapped the core-needs of this incoming generation, we became advocates for policy change, for affordable and accessible technology, and with an ongoing commitment to hold a cultural space for the voices of the next generation of farmers and ranchers. Here, read about our 2nd edition of the New Farmers Almanac, with 107 contributors from across the movement. The young agrarians are clear in their demand for a just, durable, ecological farm economy, and their role in making it so-- and land access is just the next obstacle to tackle.
The work of Agrarian Trust, tackling “the land question” is a natural extension of work that began in that basement, and there is a long road ahead. Rebuilding soil health, rural economies, humane- animal husbandry, landscape diversity, and a regional food economy is the work of at least 2-5 generations of hard working humans. Wendell Berry describes this mandate as "the resettling of America," and is himself working on training new farmers for the Kentucky landscape at St. Catherine's college. We're confident that our work with Agrarian Trust will support those people with hands on the land, who use our materials, stories, inspiration, or participate directly in the land commons. We're hopeful that this work will have an even wider cultural impact, and ripple-effect, as our 'best-practice' and highly-principled approach, will impact the land-transfer and land-investment space.
IX. Public Talks, 2014
In the fall of 2014 I gave many talks about Agrarian Trust. I shared stories from the field about the difficulty for new growers face in gaining durable land tenure, the struggle with student loan debt, the practical challenges of farmland-transfer, the very powerful cultural mandate to facilitate a truce-between the generations. To help move land-stewardship to the next generation.
You can watch a few of these talks online:
Bioneers (October 2014)
Slow Money (November 2014)
International Forum on Globalization Techno-Utopia (October 2014)
X. Agrarian Lawyers & Referral Network:
We’ve started a coalition of attorneys and activist that we hope to grow into our land-access service-provider referral network. We get emails every week from people seeking or selling farmland. So far the coalition partners include the Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC), Farm Commons, Conservation Law Foundation (CLF), and Vermont Law School’s Center for Agriculture and Food Systems (CAFS) and we have approximately 100 member attorneys, law professors, students and legal apprentices (what’s that?) from across the US. We hope to inspire and embolden others to focus legal practices and legal education on supporting our land and new agrarian economies.
Thank you for your interest in our work thus far. As we come into our 2nd year there are even more ways to engage in Agrarian Trust, and we hope you will be interested to join in.
- Sending along farm-stories of successful succession, both positive and tragic (especially from Southwest and Midwest regions).
- Acting as a community agent yourself, using our platform to become farm-transfer literate, and engaging in the community logistics in your home place.
- Supporting the formation of regional committees, helping us find partners to add to the farm-service resources list.
- Identifying farmland parcels of interest and building out the relationships to support those deals.
- Supporting our work financially through tax-exempt donation.
- Referring lawyers, and legacy planners into the Agrarian Trust referral network.
- And, most importantly adding land to the Agrarian Trust's holdings, through gift, bequest and charitable remainder, help us build a bulwark of farmland in vibrant health, to be used for local, sustainable food production in perpetuity, never to be sold.
Please, stay with us in this work, it is complicated and long winded, but also world-changing.
Severine v T Fleming, director