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Farmland Access 101: Innovative Strategies toward Landscape Change

October 31, 2023 @ 11:00 am 12:30 pm PDT

Co-hosted by SAFSF and Regenerative Agriculture Foundation

Here in the Midwest, farmland access tops the list of barriers facing emerging farmers (which includes those new to farming as well as populations that have farmed outside of the scope of traditional state and federal farmer support programs). 

At the same time, many Midwest agricultural communities are experiencing a generational shift  in land ownership as existing farmers consider retirement. 

We collectively have a narrow window of opportunity to transition millions of acres of farmland to the vibrant, diverse network of emerging farmers seeking land. Unfortunately, the exorbitant cost of farmland makes the puzzle more complicated than simply connecting retiring and emerging farmers. Some innovative organizations have been utilizing easements, federal grants, and more comprehensive farmer support programs to overcome these barriers. This session provides a Midwest perspective on tools and approaches that advance diverse farmland ownership.


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Mark Muller, Executive Director, Regenerative Agriculture Foundation

Mark Muller came to RAF in March 2020 after spending over 20 years working on related issues including agricultural conservation, Midwest water quality, racial equity in the food system, and effective federal food and agricultural policy. Most recently Mark served as director of the Mississippi River program at the McKnight Foundation, and prior to that he directed the Food & Community Fellows program at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. He also spent two years teaching high school in New York City and 18 months volunteering in Honduras and Guatemala. He lives in south Minneapolis.


Dr. Jifunza Wright-Carter, M.D., M.P.H, Co-Founder and President, Black Oaks Center

Jifunza Wright Carter M.D., M.P.H. personal & professional life has been intertwined with plants. A regenerative farmer & herbalist, she is a plant-based eater of 50 years. She has studied macrobiotics, living foods, mind-body therapies, Chinese Medicine as well as medicinal herbs, and homeopathy since she was a teen. Food has been an integral part of her prescriptive selfcare plans for decades of care for thousands of patients in her practice of integrative family medicine. Patients learning about the healing power of foods and the care of themselves has been a devotion and a commitment for much of her professional life, particularly in underserved communities.

Dr. Wright is a graduate of Case Western Reserve School of Medicine. During her Family Practice residency at Cook County Hospital in Chicago Ill, she declared her commitment to integrative medicine and completed her family practice residency training at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, New York, where residents had an herbal formulary, acupuncture clinic, and openness to integrative medicine.

Dr. Wright currently practices medicine in the Chicago area and is available to assist you with your health challenges via telehealth.

Jan Joannides, Executive Director, Renewing the Countryside

Jan is the Executive Director and co-founder of Renewing the Countryside. For the past twenty-five years, she has been an advocate and organizer for rural communities and citizens working to stimulate economic growth and enhance their communities through sustainable uses of their landscapes and resources.

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Aaron Blythe, Agriculture Program Director, Latino Economic Development Center

Aaron helps direct LEDC’s Agricultural Program working to secure grants, managing the program budget, and coordinating LEDC’s Agricultural training activities including; business technical assistance to farmers, loan application assistance, marketing assistance, and in-field technical assistance. Aaron also helps to build key partnerships with other farming and government organizations involved in creating pathways for success to Minnesota’s Latino agricultural entrepreneurs.

Aaron started working in Organic vegetable production in 2001. He is a graduate of the University of Santa Cruz’s Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems’ Apprenticeship program in Ecological Horticulture. Aaron spent over 8 years working and managing Organic vegetable farms in Oregon and Minnesota. He spent 6 years as the farm manager of Big River Farms, an Organic vegetable training farm that works with emerging and immigrant farmers. Most recently, he spent 5 years as the Director of Shared Ground Farmers’ Cooperative, a majority-owned Latino marketing cooperative in St. Paul, MN.

As a white employee of a Latino organization, Aaron is inspired to do this work for two reasons. First, he is consistently in awe of the vision, dedication, and wisdom Latino agricultural entrepreneurs bring to rural Minnesota. Secondly, Aaron wants to see a thriving Minnesota agricultural economy and believes deeply that the future of a healthy rural Minnesota depends on the energy and passion of the growing Latino community that has made rural Minnesota it’s home.

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