A Model for Community-Centered Land Ownership
Bread & Butter Farm recently announced its role as the founding farm of the newly launched Vermont Agrarian Commons, in partnership with national non-profit Agrarian Trust.
Vermont has joined ten states across the country in launching an Agrarian Commons. This is a first of its kind model that aims to address land access and tenure for next-generation farmers by holding land in a community centered trust and conveying 99-year affordable and equity-building leasehold interest to farmers.
Our Vermont Field Agent, Mike Ghia, was part of the 2019 Commons Creation Committee that reviewed draft legal documents and provided input on the structure and implementation of the Agrarian Commons concept as a model for community-centered land ownership.
The Agrarian Commons model addresses two primary barriers for farmers: the high cost of land and high debt burden of modern agriculture. Farmland access remains one of the most substantial barriers for next-generation farmers. In Vermont, a crisis in the dairy industry combined with intense development pressure puts our working farmland and our rural communities at risk. The Agrarian Commons model aims to provide one approach to solving this problem.
Bread & Butter Farm, a community farm located on the South Burlington-Shelburne line, is more than food production and education. It is a constellation of interdependent businesses working to build community and profitable livelihoods founded on a regenerative lifeway. Their vision centers on building their community’s ability to raise families within healthy ecosystems and profitable working lands for generations to come. With land prices and development pressure so high, the cost to acquire the full land base needed is unaffordable for the agricultural vision that is desired.
The founding of the Vermont Agrarian Commons, a newly formed 501c2 non-profit legal entity of Agrarian Trust, however, is a step toward realizing this vision. If fundraising is successful, the land currently owned and leased by Bread & Butter Farm will be transferred to the Vermont Agrarian Commons and governed by a board comprised of Bread & Butter farmers Corie Pierce and Brandon Bless, community stakeholders, and Agrarian Trust.
We collectively seek to trail blaze a new path for communities across our county, state and country to come together,” said Bless, “to be held by the land in perpetuity by removing barriers to land access, especially for those people marginalized and excluded, while enhancing regenerative practices that benefit the whole of the local community and ecosystem.”
The Vermont Agrarian Commons will soon launch a fundraising campaign to support farmland conservation in Shelburne and South Burlington at and surrounding Bread & Butter Farm, and build on funds already invested in the project by partners including the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, Vermont Land Trust, Dirt Capital, and the City of South Burlington. When the project is completed, over 600 acres of farmland, wildlife habitat, and recreational trails will be held in trust for the community by the Agrarian Commons of Vermont, and leased to Bread & Butter Farm to ensure regenerative food production, ecological stewardship and community engagement within a diversified agricultural structure in perpetuity.
Community members are invited to follow along as this project develops with opportunities for membership, financial contributions, land donations and participation in the growth of the Vermont Agrarian Commons.