According to Fayette County Resource Coordinator Gabriel Peña, the West Virginia Agrarian Commons (AC) is raising $258,000 through a nationwide fundraising campaign to acquire the 82-acre Whitlock Farm in Fayetteville and convey 99-year leases to next generation farmers to support food production, access, security and equity to realize a new land-based economy in the post-coal region of Southern West Virginia.
"The future of New Roots Community Farm is at risk since we do not own the land," says New Roots Community Farm Director and West Virginia AC President Susanna Wheeler. "The Agrarian Commons will provide long-term stability for New Roots Community Farm and help bring security to the work we are doing to support new farmers and scale up our ability to get new farmers on a piece of land long term while simultaneously providing them with important resources to access markets and receive training."
In an article in The Fayette Tribune in May of this year, Holly Clark wrote about a partnership between New Roots Community Farm and Agrarian Trust to establish an Agrarian Commons for community-centered and regenerative agriculture in the region.
Now, the West Virginia Agrarian Commons (AC) is raising $258,000 through a fundraising campaign to acquire the 82-acre Whitlock Farm in Fayetteville. The West Virginia AC is a collaboration between Agrarian Trust, New Roots Community Farm, and the Fayette County Farmland Protection Board, County Commission, Urban Renewal Authority, and Resource Coordinator’s Office to support food production, access, security, and equity to realize a new land-based economy in the post-coal region of Southern West Virginia.
Once the Whitlock Farm is acquired, the West Virginia AC will convey equitable 99-year leasehold interest to two collaborating groups. The first is New Roots Community Farm, an organization of next-generation West Virginia farmers leading a collaborative approach to build a more just and diverse agricultural system for the region through programmatic initiatives including community education, farmer training, and resilient food system work.
The second is an emerging agricultural producer cooperative that will provide next-generation farmers with land access for diversified food production for community consumption. At the heart of this collaboration is a group of young next-generation farmers seeding the creation and foundation of the West Virginia AC which, through collaboration with New Roots Community Farm, Fayette County Farmland Protection Board, and the Agrarian Commons, will bring in additional farms and ensure that land with secure tenure is available to the next generation of West Virginia farmers.
The West Virginia AC is a tool for collective organizing to rebuild landscapes and build new relationships in life-affirming ways, and it is one of 10 Agrarian Commons that were formed across the United States on May 1, 2020. The Agrarian Commons model addresses two of the primary obstacles for farmers: the high cost of land and the high debt burden of modern agriculture. At the same time, the model transforms land ownership through local ownership and governance and ensures and is held for community benefit and used in a way that heals and regenerates the earth.
For Southern West Virginia, by permanently removing land from the commoditized private market, the Agrarian Commons represents an important paradigm shift in a region where nature has a long history of commodification and extraction, mostly by outsiders with financial interests. Additionally, the Commons’ commitment to regenerative agricultural practices goes against 100+ years of extraction in the region, and local land ownership, stewardship, and governance stands in stark contrast to rampant absentee ownership.
New Roots Community Farm and the agricultural cooperative will work collaboratively to expand community engagement in the food system and open new opportunities for next-generation farmers to access land and engage in diverse food production for community benefit.
Support the West Virginia Agrarian Commons: https://agrariantrust.org/agrariancommons/support-wv/
Follow Agrarian Trust and the Agrarian Commons: https://agrariantrust.org/agrariancommons/engage/
(Steve Keenan also contributed to this report.)