BURLINGTON, Vt. — Out of the nearly 7,000 farms in Vermont, only 17 are Black-owned, according to the 2017 U.S. agriculture census. A $2 million fund is seeking to expand access to farm land ownership in Vermont for people who have been historically denied land based on their race.

The design and governance of this “land sovereignty” fund will be determined by Black, Indigenous, and other people of color. It is part of a broader $6 million initiative by the High Meadows Fund, Vermont Community Foundation, and Vermont Land Trust to promote the economic viability, sustainability, and diversity of farming in Vermont.

The historic Clemmons farm remains one of few Black-owned farms in both the country and the state. We look forward to joining hands with others to support the important work ahead,” said Lydia Clemmons, executive director of the Clemmons Family Farm in Charlotte.

Vermont Land Trust is a legally-based organization that permanently prohibits the development of land. It uses conservation easement as a tool to do this. The Vermont Land Trust has conserved over 11% state land (more than 590,000 acres) since 1977. Most of this land is managed or actively farmed by private owners.

Nationally, Black land ownership has declined by nearly 90% over the last century, resulting in a total loss of 36.7 million acres, according to Census of Agriculture data. Investigations by Mother Jones and The Atlantic attribute this decline to racist government policies, discriminatory lending practices, white vigilantism, and police violence.

Mighty Food Farm was a participant in the Vermont Land Trust's Farmland Access Program, whereby retiring farmers are connected to new land buyers.

Indigenous people have lost 1.5 billion acres of land since the founding of the U.S., according to University of Georgia historian Claudio Saunt.

“Indigenous communities, once the sole stewards of Vermont’s land, have been diminished and marginalized by centuries of displacement and discrimination, including the eugenics movement in Vermont in the early 20th century,” the High Meadows Fund wrote in a press release about the new grant.

Contact April Fisher at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter: @AMFisherMedia

Source: USAToday.com

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