Land Access

Land access is one of three focus areas that will frame our policy, education, networking and collaboration activities in 2022, offering multiple points of intersection for funders across our network.


The Issue

Finding secure access to land is the number one barrier preventing a generation of farmers from entering the field. The historical roots of unequal land access are entrenched in the culture of private land ownership and various forms of enforced labor and enslavement practiced by European settlers in America. Today in the U.S. 98% of farmland is owned by white people and 95% of farmers are white, the deliberate result of centuries of policies, laws, and violence that have dispossessed Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color (BIPOC) of land and labor, while the contributions of these communities to building the country’s agricultural wealth have gone uncompensated and unacknowledged.

These policies, along with market shifts and the increasing economic pressure of coping with extreme weather due to climate change, have favored the largest of landowners and farming enterprises, leading to the disappearance of small and mid-sized farms owned by farmers of all races. The trend toward consolidation means that 41% of farmland is now operated by just over 7% of the country’s farms; 30% of farmland is owned by non-farmers; 40% of farmland is leased; and nearly 45% of landlords have never farmed. 

Food sovereignty for Tribal nations and Indigenous communities, food justice for communities of color and low-income Americans, the ability of the next generation of farmers and farmers of color to make a living on the land and keep agricultural lands in production using sustainable and regenerative farming methods, all are contingent on the expansion of land access beyond the current landholding class of Americans.


Opportunities for Philanthropy

Community-level interventions

Philanthropy can directly fund programs that help diverse farmers – BIPOC, new and beginning, young, women – purchase and retain ownership of farmland through CDFIs and other lending and investment vehicles. Flexible grant funds can support tools and technical assistance for farm viability in both rural and urban environments; the establishment and sustainability of cooperative and other alternative models of land ownership/stewardship; support for equitable land transfer and succession planning; and regional and local food system infrastructure that provides markets for farmers of diverse backgrounds and scales.

Systems-level interventions

Nonprofits working to change federal agricultural and tax policies to level the playing field for smaller farms, socially disadvantaged farmers and farmers proactively employing climate-resilient stewardship techniques need financial support for their advocacy and lobbying efforts to effect policy change. Philanthropy can also support groups working to enact state and local policies such as those that prevent the loss of heirs property and provide secure long-term access to land for urban farming; advocacy for government policies that rematriate land and/or provide reparations for land theft; and policies that enable and incentivize cooperative forms of land ownership.


Learn More

Land Policy: Towards a More Equitable Farming Future – National Young Farmers Coalition

American Indian History Timeline – Indian Land Tenure Foundation

Land Grab Universities – High Country News

The Great Land Robbery – The Atlantic

Who Really Owns American Farmland – The Counter

NGOs/Experts

This list is provided for information only; listing here does not imply an endorsement by SAFSF. Please do your due diligence as you would for any other contribution. Complete this submission form to add an organization that should be included here (self-reporting is encouraged).

Black Farmer Fund

Indian Land Tenure Foundation

Land Loss Prevention Project

National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition

National Young Farmers Coalition

RAFI-USA