the irresistible fleet of bicycles


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how to intelligently argue for increasing land access

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The United States is entering a period of significant land transfer; an estimated 400 million acres will change hands in the next 20 years as farmers retire and sell or pass on their land. This is equivalent in size to the Louisiana Purchase and represents half of the farmland in our country.

Running with a crowd of like-minded earthy hippy commie-pinko queer progressives doesn’t always teach one the skills necessary to defend her morals when they are challenged. Which is why I am a big advocate for teaching yourself how to argue points that may seem obvious but— for seemingly mysterious reasons— are not accepted by the population as a whole. Towards this goal, I’d like to share something with you.

This article, co-authored by Ecology Center staffers Leah Fesseden and Dani Gelardi, appeared fabulously in the Greenhorns email inbox last week and concentrates particularly on the historic exclusion of people of color, women, Native Americans, and other disenfranchised communities from access to agriculture land and capital.

We approach a period of time in which both 400 million acres is transitioning from old to new owners and the price of farmland continues to increase dramatically. The issue of barriers to land access is particularly salient. Briefly detailing 300 years of institutional racism, the authors argue that we need to be doing everything in our power to lower barriers to entry for beginning farmers— and particularly those that come from historically disadvantaged populations. They have three suggestions as how best of go about this:

1. Advocate for changes to the farm bill

2. Support local programs like Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association (ALBA), that work to lower the barriers to entry for beginning farmers

3. Support local producers through markets, direct orders, and CSAs

And I’d add one more suggestion: read more!


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merry merry men and maidens of the forest of dean

beet the bullly

Despite the brutish encroach of bailiffs and foresters, farming activists in the UK continue to squat the 40 acres of Yorkley Court Community Farm. Since 2012, forty or so residents have established a biodynamic farm and off-grid settlement of treehouses, greenhouses, and a “sphere of high energy improbability” in the Gloucestershire woodlands.

By all accounts, the rightful owners of the property died in the 1800s leaving no clear heirs to the land. The land had been largely neglected until 2012, when the activists set up shop. This past year, the solicitor trustees sold the land out from under them to a local business man who’d like to evict the residents of Yorkley Court and develop the woodland. Residents have no intention to yield to pressure to leave.

“Many protest sites see people parachute in for a purpose, the land isn’t quite so important,” says resident and unofficial spokesperson Frank White, “We have a connection to the land, one which is shared with the community. We’re taking unused land and living off grid. We’re not anti-this, or anti-that, we’re creating a new form of society, one that is healthy, one that can survive.”

Read the original article here and follow developments at the Yorkley Court Community Farm Facebook page.


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“our land” screenings in berkley march 17 & 18!

In this Reel to Real mini-series, the Brower Center and the Agrarian Trust explore the future of American farmland and farmers. In these two fascinating documentaries, audiences will encounter a first-generation farming couple who left the urban areas of their youth to found a biodynamic dairy (Brookford Almanac) and a lifelong rancher turned “eco-cowboy” (Hanna Ranch).
Poster advertising two films showing in Berkeley, CA at 7 PM on March 17th and 18thThese films allow us to explore issues of land access, land care, and land transition. Afterwards, engage in discussion with producers and stakeholders of these films.

Buy tickets in advance here!


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great words from raj

Thoughts on Land Reform Summits in San Francisco
By Raj Patel, 04/19/2014

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In San Francisco, from April 25-28, 400 people from across the country and around the world gathered to discuss an awkward problem – land reform in America. Land reform is a loaded term, one that reeled conference participants’ imaginations toward the antics of Third World dictators and communist zealots. It’s hard to conceive a more un-American activity than thinking about an alternative to private property. Yet here were the Friends of the Earth next to the NAACP west coast region, alongside the Archdiocese of Kansas doing exactly that.

That was in 1973.

Forty-one years later to the day, a similar group is gathering in San Francisco, to discuss Our Land. I wish I were able to be there, but here’s a little of what I’d have liked to have said.

If the efforts of the conference planners are successful, then the majority of 2014 conference attendees won’t have been born when the last one happened. It’s a good thing that there’s a great deal of youthful energy around messing with private property. The young are less enamoured of capitalism than the old, and less horrified by socialism. It might even be that the participants at the Our Land summit identify as more politically radical than the summit before them. After all, the Archdiocese of Kansas isn’t famed for its scorn of capital.

But the 1973 summit has much to teach the young contrarian. Have a look at the documents produced through the conference. They’ve been tended by Peter Barnes formerly of The New Republic and are available here and in the excellent The People’s Land. Reading them, the historical continuities are striking.

continue reading HERE

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