Planting

New Roots Community Farm Production Manager Dina Hornbaker plants spring vegetables in one of three high tunnels located on the farm.

FAYETTEVILLE — New Roots Community Farm (NRCF) has been working with Agrarian Trust to transfer Fayette County’s old Whitlock farm into the West Virginia Agrarian Commons model for community-centered farm ownership, tenure and equity. They join the West Virginia Agrarian Commons (West Virginia AC) alongside partners Stover Heritage Farms, the Fayette County Farmland Protection Board, the Fayette County Commission, Fayette County Urban Renewal Authority, and Fayette County Resource Coordinator’s Office in this endeavor.

“Agrarian Trust looks to the decade ahead with great hope that the local Agrarian Commons model can bring about community-focused farmland holding structures in the U.S,” said Agrarian Trust Director Ian McSweeney.

Agrarian Trust’s mission is to support land access for next-generation farmers. At present, the future of agriculture is at risk with farmers naming land access as one of the top barriers to entry. To respond to this crisis, Agrarian Trust has introduced a model of community-held land providing 99-year leases to farmers. In other words, instead of one farmer making payments to own a piece of land, the land is held in partnership by the farmers, the community, and Agrarian Trust and governed collectively by a Commons Board made up of people from each of these groups.

“Knowing the long and mixed history of the land trust movement in the U.S., both of conservation and community land trusts, and knowing the sobering realities that farmers face today makes clear that the U.S. is in need of a cultural transformation in how farmland is held,” McSweeney said.

Many farmers must take on so much debt to buy land that they risk being priced out of sustainable agricultural practices. The Agrarian Commons model helps to address two of the biggest barriers for beginning and exiting farmers: The high cost of land and high debt burden of modern agriculture. In turn, this allows farmers to invest their dollars into sustainable agricultural practices and critical infrastructure to support their farm and feed their community.

“The future of New Roots Community Farm is at risk since we do not own the land,” said NRCF Farm Director and West Virginia AC President Susanna Wheeler. “This is something that is very common among many new and beginning farms across the nation.”

The transfer of ownership to a community structure means funds are freed up to invest more in farm infrastructure, soil health, and sustainable practices at New Roots Community Farm. This enables the farm to continue to provide food for the community while better protecting and stewarding the land the community depends on. Having a relationship with the Agrarian Trust also means the support of a national organization, providing access to legal assistance, fundraising support, guidance and more.

“Having the guarantee of a long-term lease that is held by the Agrarian Commons will ensure the future viability of the farm and enable us to continue providing market development, technical assistance, trainings and community programming,” Wheeler said.

For more information, visit https://agrariantrust.org/agrariancommons/west-virginia/.

Visit New Roots Community Farm’s Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/newrootscommunityfarm) and Instagram (http://www.instagram.com/wvnewroots) accounts for news about the growth of the farm and the West Virginia Agrarian Commons.

New Roots Community Farm offers access to locally grown food, an opportunity for businesses to begin or expand farming operations, vocational training for farmers, community garden space, and a local food distribution site. Educational and community opportunities include but are not limited to program planning, infrastructure development, apprenticeship program, community engagement, crop planning and planting, land leasing, local food distribution hub and fall harvest. To learn more about the farm, contact Farm Director Susanna Wheeler at susanna.l.wheeler@wv.gov.

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