Talking with Funders about Secure Land for Urban Agriculture

this land is your landThis fall, as part of Equity Trust’s Secure Land for Urban Agriculture initiative, we are partnering with foundations and funder groups to promote dialogue about land and urban agriculture. We aim to raise awareness of the critical issue of land tenure to the viability of a wide range of farm- and garden-based programs related to health and nutrition, youth development, and community and empowerment, and to foster discussion of creative strategies to protect land and access to it.

We convened a conversation in person in Boston (described below), co-hosted by Merck Family Fund and the Cedar Tree Foundation.

In addition, we are seeking input from foundations with a wide variety of interests through a short survey. Please share with funders!

On Tuesday, November 17, 2015, Equity Trust hosted a conversation about protecting land for urban farms and gardens in Boston.

Foundations support urban farms and gardens and related programs for a variety of reasons – youth development, food access, environmental protection, open space, and so on – but no matter what the program goal, foundations want to see their grantees’ programs succeed. Without the land they depend on, none of these urban agriculture programs can continue, yet the obstacles to obtaining secure land (i.e. permanent protection of the resource) and secure tenure (i.e. assured access to the land) are seldom discussed.

The Merck Family Fund and the Cedar Tree Foundation partnered with Equity Trust to convene a discussion about a range of strategies funders can use to support secure land tenure for urban agriculture, including:

  1. Acquisition of land or easements
  2. Technical Assistance – matching farmers with landowners, facilitating conversations and lease negotiations, helping with site preparation, pro bono legal help
  3. Advocacy – influencing policy change, fostering partnerships that make public or private land available, educating municipal officials

This lunch session informed participants about the challenges associated with land tenure, based on the experiences of a broad variety of urban agriculture programs, as we heard from practitioners illustrating a range of approaches to supporting land access:

  • Anne Richmond, Gardening The Community
  • Noelle Fogg, New Entry Sustainable Farming Project
  • Jennifer Rushlow, Conservation Law Foundation

There was plenty of time for discussion among participants about the risks their grantees’ programs are facing, the potential of the various land access strategies presented, and other ways foundations may be able to advance this issue.
Lunch was provided by Fresh Food Generation.