Resources for land seekers coming soon.
Resources for land holders coming soon.
As farmers, land is at the backbone of our work. As people, land is the basis of our existence. Ideally, we develop a deep relationship with the land and the more intimate we know, observe and respect the land, the more successful we are as farmers. At the same time, how land is acquired, held in ownership, operated, or rented has always been a matter of national interest because farmland access and tenure have economic, cultural, aesthetic, and quality-of-life impacts on entire communities.
Multiple issues exist for farmland access and farmland preservation. Farmland throughout the country is threatened by development pressures. The aging demographic of the majority of US farmers compared to the small percentage of young people entering farming is a further threat. This means there are fewer farmers to steward the land that remains. Meanwhile, the cost of land continues to increase. In just eight years (2000–2008), U.S. farmland values more than doubled. Not surprisingly, in 2017, the National Young Farmer Survey found that land access is the number one challenge that young farmers face.
Land is also at the root of racial equity, food sovereignty, economic prosperity, health and wellbeing, and the climate crisis. The well-known words of Malcom X come to mind: “Revolution is based on land. Land is the basis of all independence. Land is the basis of freedom, justice, and equality.” It’s imperative that farmers consider the intersection of all these issues as we uphold our ethics.
Land ownership has deep connection to policy and power demonstrated by our country’s horrific history of genocide, land theft from Native Americans and slavery of black Africans.
Land tenure determines who has resources and the opportunity to succeed in agriculture, yet land ownership and access in this country are vastly unequal. For example, in 1910, black Americans owned over 14 million acres of land. By 2002, black Americans own less than 1%. Native Americans own even less than that. Today, 98% of all farmland and 95% of all farms are owned by white people. This shift in ownership is the deliberate result of both past legacy and ongoing practice of policies, laws, and violence that have dispossessed Black, Indigenous, and other people of color of land.
Meanwhile, the contributions to agriculture of these oppressed communities have gone and continue to go uncompensated and unacknowledged. Many of the farming practices we know and practice today were developed by Black and Indigenous people. Just to name a few, Native Americans taught colonists no-till production methods and the intercropping methods such as the well-known Three Sisters, among others. George Washington Carver, who was a scientist, developed and promoted crop rotation principles utilizing nitrogen fixing plants. Carver, as did Native Americans, also demonstrated that cycling nutrients through composting contributes to improved soil. The CSA model, often attributed to Rudolph Steiner in the 1980’s, was in fact practiced first by Booker T. Whatley in the 1960’s.
Agricultural land and those who steward it are essential to the strength of our economy, the well-being of our marginalized communities, and the health of the environment. Secure land tenure is fundamental to farm viability, racial equity, and the success of our climate action.
Now is a critical time to ensure the next generation of farmers in the Finger Lakes has secure land tenure. Get involved today!