Down to Earth

The price of land keeps going up across the country as wealthy investors buy farmland and people move out of cities. This puts untenable pressure on farmers and land stewards who are producing healthy food and maintaining biodiversity, land health, and water cycles. But what can be done against the seemingly intractable laws of supply and demand?
Neil Thapar, co-director of Minnow, and Mariela Cedeño, partner at Manzanita Capital, are working to de-commodify land, and they’re using a lot of different tools to do it––so that land ends up owned and managed by Native American tribes and people of color. They’re also educating investors who want to contribute to a healthy food/land system not to expect high returns on their investment, but rather to use their wealth to shift land and power back to its original indigenous inhabitants and to food producers practicing good land stewardship.

photo credit: Narci Organics by Jacque Rupp

3’04 how Neil and Mariela Cedeño each found their way into the work of land de-commodification
6’35 differences between American and indigenous relationships to land in the Western US
10’12 during last summer’s wildfires land burned differently depending on how it was stewarded
12’11 how land was commodified in the first place
19’00 how to think about and start doing land de-commodification
24’20 returning land to tribes
29’33 helping farmers to buy land in Watsonville, California, that would otherwise be unaffordable, via the People’s Land Fund
32’04 the idea of “non-extractive investment”
35’52 investors are making money on investments that are often at odds with the values of stewardship
37’12 working with the tools of the system inside an extractive system, and the problem of greed
40’02 decommodifying land doesn’t deal with the problem of retirement
41’14 removing land from the marketplace as another strategy of de-commodifying land
42’40 conservation easements
43’44 community land trusts as an example of putting land in the commons
45’40 they’re all working toward a fundamental shift in the system through there various imperfect means
47’10 it’s in all of our individual interest to have farmers stewarding the land well
49’15 all this is really about redistributing wealth
51’10 the idea of creating a system that takes aspects of profit and non-profit, public and private, etc.