Farm landscape in rural Virginia during summer – photo PNS

By Emily Scott

Listen to the story here.

November 26, 2021   

RICHMOND, Va. — In central Virginia, permanent access to land is one of the biggest barriers to farming. A new land-trust model aims to secure both rural farmlands for affordable housing and agricultural practice for new farmers, while also acquiring land in urban centers to foster economic growth.

With support from the nonprofit Agrarian Trust and the Maggie Walker Community Land Trust in Richmond, the Central Virginia Agrarian Commons will focus on redistributing access to land to communities of color who’ve been historically denied land-owning opportunities.

Duron Chavis, board member of the Central Virginia Agrarian Commons and an activist from Richmond, said the model can begin to address racial inequity in the state.

“Who has the decision-making power over land?” Chavis asked. “Black and brown people are usually on the wrong side of that disparity. For an organization to step in and say, ‘Hey, we’re going to raise money to ensure that communities that have been historically marginalized are able to activate strategies for self-determination on land’ is very important.”

Davis noted the Commons is in the process of acquiring about 100 acres being donated in Amelia County, which will serve as the rural farming operation of the Commons. The organization also launched a website this month and is working on fundraising for the rezoning process to turn the land into a working farm.

The Commons is also attempting to acquire land and commercial property in Richmond to distribute the agricultural products produced on the rural farmland.

Chavis pointed out people in Richmond aspire to farm but face challenges such as soil health from contaminants. He contended the Commons could change that.

“It has the potential to create inroads for marginalized communities,” Chavis explained. “Where they can not only grow, but they also have access to commercial property, where they’ll be able to move into a space where the scale of produce that can be developed in the rural area can be brought into the city.”

Other Agrarian Commons farms have already been established throughout the country, including in West Virginia, Maine, and New Hampshire.

References:  Maggie Walker Community Land Trust 2021
Central Virginia Agrarian Commons Agrarian Trust 2021