One Million Acres Conserved  ~  100 Young Agrarians Working the Land  ~  Ten Year Vision

The Problem

The economic instability of traditional ranching in the West leads to the conversion of ecologically valuable land, exclusion of young agrarians from the industry, and an environmentally and economically degraded industry.

Average age of western ranchers

The average age of ranchers in the West is 57 years, reflecting a shortage of young ranchers willing and able to take over an important stewardship role.

Over 50% of critically endangered ecosystems are grasslands, almost 25% are shrublands, and over half of federally listed threatened or endangered species have at least 81% of their habitat on private lands in the U.S. Therefore privately stewarded Western rangelands have a vital role to play in sustaining threatened and endangered species and in conserving functional ecological systems.

In recent years more than 4 million acres of agricultural land in the U.S. have been converted to developed uses. Pressure from residential and energy development leads to higher agricultural land values in the West. As a result, ‘land rich and cash poor,’ ranchers often resolve an increasingly complex array of financial tensions by simply selling their land and exiting the industry.

The AFP Solution

The Agrarian Freedom Project advances a two-pronged solution designed to enhance the evolution of traditional ranching and regional, agricultural economies away from instability toward resilience.

Impact-oriented investors purchase debt, not equity (title goes to the agrarian, investors hold the note) thereby providing successful applicants affordable access to land-acquisition capital.

Investors accept a modest direct cash return on investment, but receive the remainder of a competitive return in non-cash form. These “alternative revenue returns” come from the land itself (e.g. beef shares, access shares, hosted membership).  When monetized, the aggregate return on investment approaches 9%, but in a form young agrarians can financially sustain.

Every deeded acre purchased with the Fund’s resources is put under conservation easement to secure the natural integrity and open landscape of each working property.

Access to training in financial planning and management, and best practices for rangeland health and resource management to bolster existing education and experience.

Mentoring resources for a range of needs including financial management, business planning, land and ranch management, niche marketing, collaborative entrepreneurship, and community leadership. Successful applicants will form diversified, 3-5 member advisory committees of seasoned professionals to help refine business plans, develop management and monitoring plans, and inform financial planning.

Project Status

The Agrarian Freedom Project is a new initiative and we are in the early stages of development. To date we have 11 Founding Lenders. Our Advisory Committee is composed of six individuals with diverse backgrounds in ecology, restoration, marketing, rangeland health, ranch management, and finance. Over the past year, we have piloted the Conservation Capital Fund on a ranch property in Arizona.

Piloted Conservation Capital Fund, iterated lessons learned and solutions identified

Finalized, legally defensible business plan, strategic plan, work plan, and rganizational structure

Annual operating budget and fundraising plan

Sound like a movement you\’d like to get behind?