The Commons to Which We All Belong: A new model for farmland trusts
Community-governed land held outside the private market can increase land access and justice for the next generation of farmers and ranchers. Ian McSweeney, Organizational Director at Agrarian Trust, discusses the Agrarian Commons model with Rhys Thorvald-Hansen. The conversation comes at a time of great transition of farmland—and a time of opportunity to transform land ownership. With a generation of farmers and ranchers soon retiring, and their property often sold to be used for leisure rather than purpose, farmland can be prohibitively expensive for those interested in entering the profession and calling. Agrarian Commons are a new type of land trust that began in 2020 across the US—one that proactively move toward land justice through offering low-barrier access to farm and ranch land to steward through regenerative agricultural practices. Find out more at https://agrariantrust.org/
Ian has also participated in many farmland and food systems initiatives and has served as a consultant to a number of organizations, locally, regionally, and nationally. He has served on zoning, conservation, planning, and agricultural Boards and Commissions, County Conservation Districts, Regional Planning Commissions, and a University Extension Coverts Program. Ian speaks on farmland transfer, conservation, secure tenure, and fundraising models across the country. He was recognized as a “40 under 40” leader in New Hampshire and selected for the Leadership Institute at Food Solutions New England. Ian and his wife Liz protected their own small New Hampshire farm with a conservation easement, manage their forest as a Certified Tree Farm, lease their farmland to a Certified Natural vegetable grower, keep bees, manage habitat with an ecological focus, and spend as much time as possible with their two young boys, Dylan and Bridger.
Ian is deeply committed to bringing about innovation to evolve farmland conservation to holistically address equitable, secure, and affordable ownership and tenure arrangements, farm viability, conservation, and community resilience to ensure regenerative, diversified food production that benefits soil, human, and community health. Ian founded Farmland Consulting LLC to support communities through farmland preservation and is excited to lead Agrarian Trust as Organizational Director.