Community Farmland Trusts

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By Neil Thapar:

"While the overwhelming majority of the more than 250 community land trusts (CLTs) in the United States currently focus on preserving affordable housing, the roots of the CLT movement spring from agriculture and civil rights struggles of Black farming families dispossessed of their land in the 1950s and 1960s who purchased and collectively managed farmland as a survival tool in the face of racial discrimination and violence. Today, one of the biggest barriers to the equitable ownership of farmland is the increase in land values as a result of the financialization of land as an economic asset. CLTs effectively address this barrier by removing the speculative pressures from farmland when they acquire it. The CLT holds land for the benefit of the community and enters into long-term leases to provide farmers with secure tenure and the autonomy we generally associate with ownership. The CLT can also partner with another entity to sell a conservation easement, which drastically reduces the value of the land, making it that much more affordable for the farmer and preserving the agricultural character of the land forever. As nonprofit organizations, CLTs also legally bind the farmland to the charitable purposes for which the CLT was incorporated, essentially ensuring that the farmland it owns will be put to uses that will benefit the public in perpetuity.

Importantly, CLTs also structure their Board of Directors, the ultimate decision-making body for most nonprofits, to localize decisionmaking power. CLT boards include representation from professionals, tenants (in this case, farmers), and immediate community members to ensure that the CLT is acting in the best interests of those impacted by its activities." (


Neil Thapar [1]:

"At the Sustainable Economies Law Center, we are working with Agrarian Trust to further develop the CLT model into a decentralized and democratic community institution by piloting the model of worker-self direction within the land trust itself.

Other examples of farmland CLTs include

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