Land is the source of our nourishment and the ground upon which we build our families, our communities, and our dreams. Yet we live in a culture that has turned land into a commodity—a thing to be bought and sold, used and abused, and traded for profit. Like other necessities, access to land is determined by money, and those without it are locked out.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. We can imagine and create new ways of holding, sharing, and caring for the places which sustain us. We can make land accessible to those who have been excluded from it, and we can place more and more land into the hands of people and organizations who are dedicated to growing just and sustainable forms of life and livelihood in our communities.
This is the project of Land in Common.
As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit community land trust founded in 2008, we are working to develop a durable, state-wide, democratically-run cooperative structure for the ownership, care, and equitable distribution of land in Maine. Building on years of experience working with members of the JED Collective homestead (now Wild Mountain Cooperative) and neighboring elder landowners to successfully protect more than 300 acres of agricultural and wild land in Greene, we are now launching a wider phase of work, seeking to build awareness and spark collective action toward land justice; to bring new parcels of land across Maine into common ownership; and to redistribute their long-term use and care to those who need them and will use them for good work.
Land in Common is a member-run Community Land Trust based in Greene, Maine. We are dedicated to the promotion of land justice and to the protection and stewardship of rural lands. We believe that secure access to life-sustaining land is a human right, and we seek to transform our current unjust and unequal system of land ownership into a system where human and nonhuman life can flourish in reciprocity.
Since our founding in 2008, we have permanently protected 250 acres of farmland and wild land in Greene through community land trust ownership. Seventy-four of these acres are working land, housing Wild Mountain Cooperative, a collectively-run community farm, and providing community growing space for Presente! Maine, a Portland-based Latinx mutual aid organization. The remaining acres are wild land, protected for animal habitat.
Our community land trust model ensures that land will always be affordable to the land stewards who live there. We use a 99-year “ground lease,” at a rate set on a case-by-case basis to ensure that cost does not present a barrier to anyone. This ground lease offers the same long-term security that land ownership would, but unlike ownership it is affordable, and it protects the land from ever being sold for development. Land stewards can then build homes on the land, which they themselves own.
In addition to our work of protecting and stewarding land, we offer community financing for projects on our land, we co-lead the Maine Land Share Project, we organize and educate for land justice, and we provide technical assistance to organizations working in Maine on the frontlines of land justice.
What is a Community Land Trust?
Community Land Trusts (CLTs) are built on the innovative idea of separating the ownership of land from the ownership of buildings and other “improvements.” The land itself is owned by the member-run land trust (in our case, Land in Common) as part of a shared commons, removing it permanently from the market. This land is then leased to residents via an inheritable, renewable, 99-year, “ground lease.” Buildings on the land are owned directly by the residents themselves and may be sold only at values that assure fair compensation (not high profits) for owners and long-term affordability for future residents. Long-term protection of the land for agriculture, conservation, affordable housing, and other community-based purposes is achieved; while security, autonomy, and participation in key land-related decisions by land residents is also ensured.1
Land in Common is governed by two groups of people: those who live on or use the land (Resident Members) and those from the wider community (Associate Members) who support the vision, mission, and values of the organization.2 This structure ensures that both the direct interests and needs of land residents and the organization’s wider purpose are placed equally at the heart of all of our work.
Our Board of Directors meets monthly and holds seasonal retreats for more in-depth work. An Annual General Membership Meeting is held every fall at which new Board members are elected and key decisions are made about the annual budget, ground lease fees, land acquisitions, Bylaw changes, and other proposals that shape the organization’s future.
A core commitment of Land in Common, as we scale up to a statewide level, is to maintain a grassroots culture of direct democracy at the heart of our organization. This includes a deep dedication to making our decision-making processes and practices as accessible as possible; to growing and diversifying our membership in multiple dimensions of geography, experience, ability, class, race, culture, gender expression and identity, and age; to creating ongoing opportunities for members to step into new levels of participation and leadership; and to building staffing structures that reflect our core democratic and egalitarian values.
The Bigger Picture: Land Gathering & Redistribution
Our land commoning work has two sides: the gathering of land, and the redistribution of its use and care.
Land Gathering. We see a number of key pathways to gathering land into the commons:
Direct land gifts. A land-owner gifts land or wills land to Land in Common. This might include transfer of land during the lifetime of an elder, with a CLT ground lease to secure their long-term residency.
Land purchases. We recognize that purchasing land will be especially necessary in cases where people rely on the value of this land for later-life security. We are particularly interested in scaling-up our existing Community Financing program to generate grassroots funding for the purchase of land.
Land-seeking Collaborations. We are excited to partner with people or groups seeking land, and to leverage our skills and resources to support this process—bringing new land into the commons in alliance with those who will then become its long-term residents and stewards.
Land Shifts. We also welcome land transfers from existing landowners who are rooted on their land and want to be direct participants in Land in Common—enacting alternatives to private land ownership in their own lives and places. Such collaborations can also serve to build new forms of community and collective support for individual land projects while growing the strength of Land in Common’s base.
Our Vision & Values
Land in Common is not just a land conservation organization. We seek to transform the relationship between people and the land. While protecting and caring for wild and agricultural land is one of our core activities, we see our work as part of a wider and deeper movement for liberation and transformation. We seek the intimate re-integration of humans with our more-than-human communities; the reparation and healing of injustices that have separated people from the land and privatized it for exclusive use and exploitation by a privileged minority; the cultivation of just and resilient forms of livelihood; and the creation and re-vitalization of resilient, inclusive cultures and communities of care, cooperation, and solidarity.
Land in Common seeks a world in which land is shared and cared for in common, where humans and other species flourish in interdependence.
Land in Common removes land from speculative markets and places it into a member-run trust, to be cared for over the long-term by its residents. We are creating a multi-generational land base for sustainable livelihoods that supports communities working for just, cooperative, and resilient futures.
We believe that land is a vital source of life and sustenance. It is not a commodity.
We believe that land access and security should not be tied to economic wealth.
We believe that a home is a fundamental right of all living beings.
We are committed to justice and anti-oppression in all of our work.
We are committed to bold experimentation and to learning with humility.
We are committed to cooperation, collaboration, mutual-aid, and direct democracy.
We value the true wealth of sufficiency and “enoughness.”
We honor the importance of spirituality, mindfulness, love, and joy.
We are committed for the long haul, in the service of future generations.
We strive to enact these values in the culture and structure of our organization.
Our mission is multi-faceted and holistic. We prioritize projects that:
Sustain local, community-based agriculture and homesteading;
Integrate human communities and livelihood activities with protected wild ecosystems;
Create low-cost, limited-equity housing;
Enact cooperative forms of living and working;
Participate in collective efforts for social, economic, and ecological justice;
Manifest direct participation and leadership by people most impacted by oppression.
Maine Land Share 2020
The Maine Land Share Project connects people who want to grow food with people who have land to share.
As our communities struggle with the rippling effects of the COVID-19 virus, there is no better time then now to share what we have and to reconnect with the healing and nourishing power of land.
Please follow these links to describe what you’re seeking or what you can offer:
Are you looking for a place to grow food this season?
Do you have land available that others could use to grow food this season?
Do you have access to, or know about, resources that can support food growers this season? (seeds, soil, tools, knowledge, etc.)
We will work to find matches that meet everyone’s needs and requests.
In making these connections, we prioritize requests from members of communities most affected by historical harms and current social and economic challenges.
We may not always be able to find a match in your location, but we will do our best.
If a match is made, we will help to:
design a land sharing arrangement that works best for everyone
create a written land sharing agreement
make connections with knowledgeable people who can provide gardening/farming advice and support
source necessary seeds, seedlings, tools, and other materials
troubleshoot needs and challenges that arise during the season
Questions? Ideas? Collaborations?
Learn more about how the Land Share Project works here.
Email us: firstname.lastname@example.org
Call us: (207) 754-7575 (Ethan Miller, project contact)
Please consider making a donation
Financial support is crucial to making this project work. If you have extra to share, please consider making a tax-deductible donation to support Maine Land Share.
100% of donations we collect for this project will go directly to organizers and gardeners/farmers from most-impacted communities. This includes the purchase of seeds, soil, tools, and other necessary resources, assistance with childcare and transportation as needed, and support for front-line organizers helping to facilitate work on the land.