Land in Common’s News from 2020
In many ways, 2020 has been a calamitous year. The pandemic has laid bare deep injustices at the heart of our political and economic systems. At the same time, 2020 has been a year of clarity, transformation, and solidarity – from the proliferation of mutual aid and food distribution networks, to the surging nationwide support for the Movement for Black Lives. For Land in Common, 2020 has affirmed that the work of building life-sustaining land commons and creating land justice has never been more important.
MAINE LAND SHARE PROJECT
In collaboration with Presente! Maine and The Resilence Hub, we initiated the Maine Land Share Project this spring as a rapid response to community needs for food production. Thanks to our all-volunteer team of land matchmakers, aspiring food growers, people willing to share land, and generous donors, we were able to connect gardeners with land and garden-support resources at 15 sites across Maine, the majority of which supported gardeners experiencing racial, gendered and/or class-based land injustice. Presente! Maine’s land share site, located on our land in Greene (stewarded by Wild Mountain Cooperative), has produced hundreds of pounds of fresh food for free community distribution in Portland and Lewiston/Auburn via the Food Brigade. We’re in conversation now with collaborators about possibilities for next year’s Land Share work, focusing especially on ways to organize the project in support of longer-term land justice for front-line communities. Please let us know if you have ideas!
NEW LAND COMMONS!: CELEBRATION TREE FARM AND WELLNESS CENTER IN DURHAM
In early December, we welcomed a new parcel of land into our commons! In collaboration with Celebration Tree Farm & Wellness Center (CTFWC), and with financing from the Cooperative Fund of New England, we have purchased 110 acres of forest land in Durham, Maine. With CTFWC as the long-term land steward, this beautiful forest land will be activated into a space for community and cultural connections, ecological forestry, outdoor recreation and education, wellness, and social change.
Founded in 2015, Celebration Tree Farm & Wellness Center is a multi-stakeholder cooperative run by community-owners and worker-owners who benefit from the forest, the land, the barn, the garden, and the shared infrastructure. The farm provides MOFGA-certified celebration (Christmas) trees, grown with carbon-sequestering practices of ecological forestry, and offers yoga, reiki, farm stays and educational workshops to the community. We are excited to watch CTFWC grow its new “Community Supported Forest” program and to support this work in coming years!
GROWING THE COMMONS IN GREENE
Thanks to a generous donation from a committed community member, we are expanding our commoned land on Clark Mountain in Greene, where the organization was founded. By the year’s end, 16 additional acres of land will be added to Wild Mountain Cooperative’s leasehold. This land (formerly leased from the previous owners) includes many of the community’s orchards and gardens, significant shoreline along Berry Pond, and a building envisioned as a future community organizing and education space–currently under a lifetime tenancy to the 99-year old elder, Jim Nesbitt, who has sold and gifted much of the Clark Mountain land into trust over the past 20 years. Land in Common is thrilled to support Wild Mountain Cooperative in exploring ways that this new land, and associated buildings, can be shared and mobilized for wider community use.
To fully embody our vision and mission, Land in Common must be shaped and run by those whom it seeks to serve—BIPOC and low-income/working-class people who have been most directly impacted by land-based injustice. We are in the process of transforming our organization so that decisions about its priorities, resources, trajectory, and organizational culture and structure are made by people from most-affected communities. We are in close conversation with BIPOC and other community leaders in Maine, and have built a group of informal, committed advisors who are collaborating with us on this process. We are planning for a major shift in our Board composition over the next six months. More news on this soon!
We are also in the midst of initiating and exploring a number of other land commoning projects, including an effort to protect long-term subsistence gardening and housing affordability for a single-family coastal home in Orland, Maine, and an emerging land-search project with Presente! Maine. Other potential projects are in the conversation phase, and we are especially excited to focus our upcoming efforts on two main fronts:
Growing Equitable Rural Land Access. Access to life-sustaining land should be a human right. But white supremacy and wealth inequality make land ownership inaccessible to many people. In response to the urgent need for long-term, secure land tenure, we’re seeking to support land acquisition for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) and low-income/working class identified people. We will work with land seekers to identify their community land aspirations, we will find well suited land, and we will protect the land and redistribute its long term use and care to the new land stewards.
Subsistence Land Elders Project. As Maine’s small farmland owners grow older, the future of their farms and land is uncertain. Many will have to face the hard choice of whether to sell their land at development value to be able to afford retirement, or to protect their farms for future generations. Meanwhile, as the cost of land is rising, and it becomes increasingly unavailable to all but the most privileged of younger people. The Subsistence Land Elders Projects offers a pathway for elders with small farms or gardens to pass their land on to Land in Common, and to share their life’s work and knowledge with the future generations who will carry on their legacy. For elders who wish to remain on their land for the rest of their lives, the project will encourage the creation of intergenerational communities on the land, where land stewards will help with elder care and maintaining their farms.
We’re working hard to fundraise for both of these projects. Help us by donating!
If you or anyone you know has land to donate, or is seeking land, we would love to hear from you.