Creating an Agricultural Easement for our Farm

 

Our Path - Uniting our family farm with local communities in a partnership committed to land stewardship

Our Family Farm - A little about us and our reasons for creating the Easement.

The Community Equity Trust - Some information about the organization that we are working with.

Your Part In Our Farm-How you can help us achieve our goals of Farm Preservation.

 

The What, When, Where, Why and How Questions - The most frequently asked questions 

•  Our Agricultural Easement - An explanation of our agricultural easement.

•  How Does The Easement Work - basics of what the easement will do to the land

•  Why Create An Easement? - A few reasons, although there are many more

•  Money and legal aspects - A basic look "Under the Hood"

Testimonial from a Young Farmer - By Ryan Dolan

 

OUR PATH

    In an era where family farmers in California and across the nation are struggling to hold on to their farms, Good Humus has decided to venture on a path that we believe can be a model for other farms in California and beyond. This path unites family with their local communities in a partnership committed to stewardship of agriculture lands in accordance with sustainable and environmentally sound practices. 

    The way in which the community and our farm will commit to each other is by putting a shared Equity agricultural easement on our farm. To establish such a easement, a publicly funded land trust purchases the nonagricultural value of our property. Legally binding restrictions are then placed on the farm's deed which ensures that the land will be kept in active farming use, will be farmed with environmentally responsible methods, and will be valued solely on the basis of its agricultural value in the establishment of any future resale price.

    In this way we take our land out of the world of land speculation and place it in the world of environmentally responsible food production, while also reducing and stabilizing the land's value so that future farmers can afford to purchase and work this land.

    To safeguard our agriculture land base it is crucial to have community involvement. this work cannot be done by farmers alone. You can help us in the process by contributing your skills and/or finances to our effort to create an easement. Once we place the easement on our farm a public land trust will hold and oversee these easement rights for the benefit of the community. In this way, a community contributor can insure that they and their children will play a part in maintaining the family farm community that so many people in the U.S. have grown up with as a foundation of our country.

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OUR FAMILY FARM

    Good humus is a 20-acre diversified farm that supports three families and produces mixed fruits and vegetables, herbs, flowers and value-added agricultural products year-round. We are committed to develop intensively rather that extensively and to market locally or regionally rather that nationally or internationally. 

    For the past 27 years, we at Good Humus have been selling organically grown food to a highly supportive group of people at the Davis Food Coop, the Davis Farmer's Market and the Sacramento Natural Food Coop. For the last 10 years, we have been providing food for consumers in Davis, Woodland, Sacramento and now, San Francisco through our Community Supported Agriculture weekly subscription box program. During these same 10 years, we have been increasingly involved with local school district's lunch programs and farm-to-school visits. Several summer programs emphasizing regional environmental awareness for urban school students have been held on our farm.

    At this time our primary motivation for establishing an easement of the farm is to stabilize the work we have already accomplished and to provide an opportunity for farmers of the future. Even with experience and desire to farm, the farmers we have trained at Good Humus have been unable to afford or obtain access to secure land in our area. They and other young farmers are unable to achieve a viable living, or provide for their families.

    After several years of farming, we have realized that it often takes more than a lifetime to develop a mature, viable farm. Through luck, help, and hard work, we have started on the road to this goal, but much remains to be done.

Contact: Good Humus, 12255 Co. Rd. 84A Capay CA 95607

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THE COMMUNITY LAND TRUST

    Good Humus is fortunate to work with Equity Trust, a non-profit community land trust in Turner Falls, Mass. Their Trust is one of only a handful of organization in the United States that have experience in developing, establishing and then managing agricultural easements that work on creating legal documents which  includes options for farms to be continued in farming, the farms use sustainable practices, and that the farm are affordable to the next generation of farmers. 

 

Equity Trust Inc (ETI) is a 501[c][3] nonprofit corporation, committed to promoting equity in the world by changing the way people think about and hold property. ETI provides a forum for exploring the balance of public and private interests in property, land tenure counseling and financing for community supported agriculture, and develops and supports alternative models and tools of land tenure.

The Equity Trust Fund, a program of ETI, evolved to support our mission through: providing financing to community development and conservation projects with emphasis on demonstrating alternative land tenure models; offering a vehicle for the divestment and/or socially responsible investment of personal and institutional wealth; stimulating reflection on the origin of value and the social mortgage on property and wealth; and generating revenue to support the organization, either directly or indirectly. These resources finance projects with priority given to those in greatest need.

Contact: Equity Trust, P.O.  Box 746, Turner Falls, Mass. 01376, phone: 413-863-9038 or at  www.equitytrust.org

 

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YOUR PART IN OUR FARM

We are asking our community to be a part of  organizing and finance the establishment of an easement on our land. This easement will ensure that this farm will be held in perpetuity for farming and food production for our community for generations to come. We feel that the responsibility of land ownership and guaranteed local  food production needs to be shared with our surrounding food community and not solely on the farmers. The benefits to the community is: 

We are in the process of a Farm Preservation Campaign and trying to raise $300,000 to purchase our Agricultural Land Easement. We are eager to connect with individuals and organizations that have an interest in our work  Here are several ways you can help:  

 

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The What, When, Where, Why and How Questions

 

What are we Doing?

 

We are creating a new form of an Easement, a legal document that will sell some of the rights of ownership to a Public Land Trust. Our goal is to find a way to maintain a vibrant local economy by creating a way for communities to partner with farm land, farms, and farm families so that this local infrastructure that we have spend our lives building can be continued, thus creating a food security for communities and a land security for farmers.  

OUR AGRICULTURAL EASEMENT

Our easement is to ensure that: 

  1. This land has multi generations to build a healthy sustainable farm 

  2. This land is taken off the speculative market and remains as a  farm 

  3. The land, the buildings, and the planted landscape will be affordable to farmers who will be  purchasing it with an agricultural income.

What is an Easement and how is ours Different? 

We have chosen to hit the save button stabilizing our work through the use of easement by adding additional restrictions to our legal title of ownership to the 20 acres of GHP.

  There are many types of easements, but most do not reach our goals in creating a local food economy What most farms do is partner with a local Public Land Trust and use what is known as a Conservation Easements. Traditionally conservation easements are devoted to open space preservation and wildlife conservation We feel that This does not go far enough, we are creating a new model called a Shared Equity Ag Easement that has additional restriction in our easement that will ensure that the land is for local food production. A Shared Equity Easement is where the community shares in the purchase of the easement through their donations that then provides a permanent source of food.

  Once the community purchases the easement, a public land trust will hold the easement to ensure that:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Does the Easement work?

 

 

The easement is a legal document held and enforced by a public land trust. They have only one purpose, and that is to hold and enforce the easements for the public. They have no ability to change the easement. The Easement takes an entire body of ownership rights that we have as owners and separates them into

 

 

 

Why Create an Agriculture Easement?  Why should you care?

      Your food supply is at risk, and there is a diminished ability for local food to be produced because we are losing agricultural land to other uses. This program will ensure certain designated areas will always be in food production .  It will ensure the land is always affordable to farmers , and provide a living for able farmers.

The farmer and the community will share the farm equity and stewardship.  Easement deed restrictions legally limit the land's uses to sustainable farming only & and thus the valuation will be decreased making it affordable to future farmers. The difference between the restricted  "agriculture value" and the unrestricted "fair market value" is the "non-agricultural land value". The trust purchases this non-agricultural value in the form an easement, and so removes it from the speculative market forever. 

Do the Numbers

We have started a Farm Preservation Campaign to raise the funds for Equity Trust to purchase the Easement from us.

The difference between the two is the non-agricultural land value of $300,000 that is what we are selling to Equity Trust and what our campaign is trying to cover.

Where does the money go?

 

Who will Hold our Legal Document?

We are fortunate to work with Equity Trust Inc is a 501[c][3] nonprofit corporation and community land trust in Turner Falls, Maine (www.equitytrust.org). They are committed to promoting equity in the world by changing the way people think about and hold property. They provide a forum for exploring the balance of public and private interests in property, land tenure counseling and financing for community supported agriculture, and develop and support alternative models and tools of land tenure.

Equity Trust has already done this type of easement with Steven and Gloria Decator of Live Power Farm in Covelo. They put their land into this type of model in 1995 and have been our mentors and guides in this process. The Marin Agricultural Land Trust (MALT) has included a requirement for active farming in one of its recent easements. This is the first and so far only time they have included such language.  

 

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Testimonial from a Young Farmer

By: Ryan Dolan

July 26, 2007

 

     Basically, the Good Humus Farm Preservation Project is really a social justice or farmer justice project. Let’s face it, anyone who drives up or down I-5 can see that there are plenty of farms and plenty of productive land. That same anyone could go into an increasing number of stores and see abundant displays of organic food, more every day. So who cares about 20 acres in the boondocks? If that same anyone decided that organic farming or farming in general looked like a good livelihood based on all that land they see and all that market then things would get interesting. Firstly, and unfortunately, the current housing and real estate boom has seen land values inflate dramatically. It had reached and is at a point where the costs of obtaining the land and the mortgage payments are too large for even the most efficient and productive farms or farmers to make payments without off farm employment or prior access to money which is not generated by the farm. To put it bluntly, the farm is not paying the bills anymore. This is not getting any better with the emphasis on home equity as it seems like every bare piece of land available to small scale agriculture now has a micro-mansion and a horse arena on it, thus increasing the cost. While there are still large parcels available to farmers they are so big that although the price per acre is relatively low, the overall price is high and the scale too large for the diverse marketing and management that is a small scale organic family farm.  Couple this with the enormous amount of money needed to begins a farm (tractors, trucks, buildings, payroll, compost, and soil amendments, etc.) and you have a mountain that is virtually insurmountable to all but the financially privileged.

    I am 33 years old and have watched as many of my peers who were once passionate about farming and working and living on the land, have turned their energies to more gainful employment. Even though the USDA has improved the access that young farmers have to loans, the loans are too larger for that farm to pay it off, even when these farmers are charging those "high" prices you see at the stores. So, frankly, what we are heading for is a continuation of the trends we have now: more corporate control of land a farms (yes, even organic ones), more importation of foreign food, and continued development of the land in a way that makes it more difficult to farm. Like many people my age I feel a growing distress about the future which is being handed down to us by the "boomers." today almost every house is a million dollars and every hospital visit a potential bankruptcy. I see people retiring to anywhere they want, driving up land prices and then refusing to vote on taxes that would fund schools and libraries because their kids are grown. After three years working with Jeff and Annie I searched for a farm to purchase in Yolo County, finding none that I could afford, moved to Williams, Oregon, and am still searching for the affordable farm. I especially feel the frustration of wanting to own a farm, to take care of the land, to feed my community, and employ my neighbors and not being able to afford it. I have watched as countless properties blessed with the right conditions for farming have fallen to trophy homes. This is serious.

     So back to Good Humus. Think about Americorp, or the Peace Corp., or any other philanthropic venture which allows those young people with positive energy to give and use that energy for the public good. I think most of us would agree that small organic family farms are not only good for the environment, but for the community and the local economy. so why not support the establishment of "forever farms" or somewhere that a young farmer could go and not have to rewrite the book or reinvent the wheel but instead could pick up where the last farmer left off (this used to be what it was like from family to family). Imagine a young person fresh out of some amazing agriculture program like they have at UC Santa Cruz being able to put that considerable knowledge and energy into a viable venture that not only benefits himself, but through the very nature of its goals (healthy land, healthy food, social justice) benefits others. It is sad but true that we are failing. Failing to train and teach more farmers.

    The corporations and China are not going to take care of us. We must take care of each other and we must take care of the land. Most of us wouldn't know where to begin on that one. So the next best thing we can do is to take care of the ones who can; the farmers, ranchers and stewards of our producing land; our mother. There needs to be more opportunities for farmers to gain access to the land before they get an inheritance, before they are too old to work it. Jeff and Annie are doing an incredible thing by forgoing their piece of the personal financial portfolio pie. They are prioritizing the farmer even over their own children and in doing so prioritizing the community over themselves. This is not about them getting their land paid for or building a house. This is about giving the land or at least a large portion back to the world as a whole and establishing the value of it as inextricable from its use and productivity, not its view or privacy, etc.

     Here's a final quote from my ramblings: I don’t think anyone who hasn't done it, and I mean done it: moved the pipe, milked the cow, fixed the machine, watched and waited with anxiety for the seeds to emerge, paid the bills, I don’t think they can truly ever understand how tenuous our hold and how magnificent our responsibility to the land and to the ones who continue to take care of it, and subsequently, us.


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