Cultivating A Farmland Commons

Photo by Jason Houston.

A new generation of young, well-prepared, and sustainable farmers is on the rise, ready to establish themselves securely on the land.  Inspired by the opportunity to do meaningful, healthy, and productive work by rebuilding regional food systems, these entrepreneurs form a powerful force for the future of ecologically informed agriculture.

By raising food locally for local markets and fostering a farm-to-table cuisine, they are creating an alternative to our global supply chain and making visible the connection among food, farms, farmers, and community.

As drought continues to cause damage to over 40% of the US, made worse by a dependence on centralized crop production, the shift to a place-based agriculture led by these new agrarians  promises a more diverse and secure food system that is more resilient to changes in the weather, less energy dependent, more beneficial to soil health, and more socially and culturally equitable.

This shift is complicated by the fact that during the next two decades over 400 million acres of farmland (40% of all productive agricultural land) will change hands, potentially triggering even greater corporate concentration of agricultural interests and practices.  The new demographic of farmers and their initiatives to transform agriculture is hindered by the high cost of entering farming.

If issues of land transfer and land security are met head on, however, we can inspire the creation of a new network of regionally based “farmland commons”—allocating land use in a way that protects the interests of regional communities and their unique eco-systems.

Two upcoming symposiums address this urgent subject—one a national call to action, detailing  the consequences of historic and current patterns of farmland ownership and arguing for a revolutionary response; the other a regional response, a gathering of place-based organizations working to create a capacity to hold and lease farmland by and for their regional community, providing security and equity in building improvements for the leasing farmers.

Both events require pre-registration.  Details, including a list of speakers, follow.  For those unable to attend, proceedings from both Symposiums will be posted on the Schumacher Center’s website.  Additional resource materials on the topic of access to land for farmers can be found at and



The Agrarian Trust is led by Severine von Tscharner Fleming.  On April 26th and 27th, Agrarian Trust and the Schumacher Center for a New Economics is convening OUR LAND: A Symposium on Land Access in the 21st Century in Berkeley, California.

Evening Plenary, April 26th at 6pm
Wheeler Hall, UC Berkeley – Berkeley, CaliforniaSpeakers:
Wes Jackson (The Land Institute), Anuradha Mittal (Oakland Institute), Gayle McLaughlin (Mayor of Richmond, CA), Doria Robinson (Urban Tilth), Severine von Tscharner Fleming (Agrarian Trust)


Symposium, April 27th 9:30am – 5pm
The David Brower Center – Berkeley, CaliforniaSpeakers:
Joel Salatin (Polyface Farm), Eric Holt-Gimenez (Food First), Raj Patel (Stuffed and Starved), Sjoerd Wartena (Terre de Liens), Kathy Ruhf (Land for Good), Reggie Knox (California Farmlink), Elizabeth Henderson (Peaceworks Farm and Agricultural Justice Project), Gary Nabhan (author and Professor), Dave Henson (Occidental Arts and Ecology Center), Severine von Tscharner Fleming (Agrarian Trust)

Evening Reception and Screening of The Last Crop, April 27th at 5:30pm sponsored by Vital Systems California

Presented by Agrarian Trust and the Schumacher Center for a New Economics and co-sponsored by: Berkeley Food Institute, California Farmlink, Chelsea Green Publishing, David Brower Center, and Roots of Change

Advance registration is required and space is limited. Find full program information and register here.


The Community Land Trust in the Southern Berkshires is a sister project of the Schumacher Center for a New Economics.  On April 12th the Land Trust, led by Billie Best, is teaming with a number of other Berkshire County organizations to hold a Symposium on Farmland Access in the Berkshires.  The program will be held at the Berkshire Athenaeum in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and will provide practical information for residents wishing to lease land and for farmers hoping to secure access.

Saturday April 12th, 10am-2pm
Berkshire Athenaeum, Pittsfield, Massachusets

Speakers and Panelists:
Kathy Ruhf (Land for Good), Jen Salinetti (Woven Roots Farm) Bruce Howden (Howden Farm and Berkshire County Farm Bureau), Bridget Spann (Caretaker Farm), Leslie Reed-Evans (Land Owner Williamstown Rural Lands Foundation), Rich Chandler (Mass. Dept. of Agricultural Resources), Sarah Gardner (Williams College Center for Environmental Studies), Melissa Adams (Mass. Representative for Glynwood), Amy Kacala (Berkshire Regional Planning Commission), Barbara Zheutlin (Berkshire Grown), Bill Martin (Farm Credit East), Benneth Phelps (The Carrot Project), Kathy Orlando (Sheffield Land Trust), Rich Chandler (Mass. Dept. of Agricultural Resources)

A collaboration of: Community Land Trust in the Southern Berkshires, Berkshire Grown, Berkshire Co-op Market, Land for Good, The Carrot Project, Great Barrington Agricultural Commission, Berkshire Natural Resources Council, Bard College at Simon’s Rock Center for Food Studies, and The Schumacher Center for a New Economics

Advance registration is required and space is limited. Find full program information and register here.