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Land Trusts and Community-Based Agriculture

March 14, 2023 @ 12:00 pm - 1:15 pm EDT


Webinar Recording – English

Webinar Recording – Spanish

Presentation Slides

Heather Benham, Athens Land Trust
Yimmuaj Yang, Groundswell Conservancy

Webinar Description

CLT Center LogoWhile community land trusts are often focused on housing — their activities can extend far beyond that.  In fact, the roots of the CLT movement are in agriculture — originating in New Communities,  a 5,700-acre land trust and farm collective located in Albany, Georgia owned and operated by Black farmers from 1969 to 1985 — which was once one of the largest-acreage African American-owned properties in the United States.

Today we see both community land trusts and conservation land trusts doing innovative work in community-based agriculture. In this webinar, we will highlight the work of three US-based land trusts doing amazing community-led work in urban and periurban agriculture, contributing to local food systems, providing training to new farmers, engaging young people, and providing opportunities for healing to survivors of the Secret War in Laos.

This webinar will feature case study presentations about exemplary community-based agriculture projects, with a discussion to follow.  It will be moderated by Greg Rosenberg of the Center for CLT Innovation, with an introductory video excerpt from Arc of Justice (a film by Helen S. Cohen and Mark Lipman) featuring Charles and Shirley Sherrod speaking about New Communities.


Heather Benham, Executive Director, Athens Land Trust

Photo of Heather BenhamHeather Benham joined Athens Land Trust in 2002 as a summer intern, and then becoming ALT’s first full-time employee in 2003. Since that time she has filled many roles: overseeing construction on ALT’s affordable housing program; building relationships with families while helping them achieve their dreams of homeownership; and growing ALT’s community agriculture program while managing the organization’s operations. Now she serves as Executive Director, working closely with members of the community, other organizations, and local officials to further ALT’s mission.

Joy Gary, Executive Director, Boston Farms

Photo of Joy GaryJoy Gary is a regenerative systems designer that is passionate about food and community. She is a lifelong Boston resident who has dedicated her time to supporting regenerative systems development, food justice, and education through urban agriculture projects.  She co-managed gardening and youth development programs at The Food Project and has led ReVision Urban Farm as Farm Manager.

Yimmuaj Yang, Community Director, Groundswell Conservancy

Photo of Yimmuaj YangSince Yimmuaj Yang joined Groundswell Conservancy in 2020, she’s closed the gap between non-white farmers and available farmland through her leadership of their Equitable Access to Land program. One of Yimmauj’s projects is the Lifting Hearts Therapy Garden, which serves Hmong elders living with PTSD, dementia and depression, many of whom were displaced from their villages in Laos and Vietnam to refugee camps in Thailand and then to the U.S. Their journey is parallel to Yang’s: as a young child, she arrived in Madison with her family from a refugee camp. She loves food because it is the universal language of all people; food brings people together.

About Arc of Justice

Arc of Justice traces the remarkable journey of New Communities, Inc. (NCI) in southwest Georgia, a story of racial justice, community organizing, and perseverance in the face of enormous obstacles.

NCI was created in 1969 in Albany, Georgia by leaders of the Civil Rights Movement, including Congressman John Lewis, and Charles and Shirley Sherrod, to help secure economic independence for African American families.  For 15 years, NCI cooperatively farmed nearly 6,000 acres, the largest tract of land in the United States owned by African Americans at the time, but racist opposition prevented them from implementing plans to build 500 affordable homes as part of their community land trust.

Unable to secure government loans to cope with the impact of successive years of drought, NCI lost the land to foreclosure in 1985. But 25 years later it was given new life as a result of a successful class action lawsuit brought by hundreds of African American farmers against the U.S. Department of Agriculture for loan discrimination. With the settlement, the original founders purchased a 1,600-acre plantation once owned by the largest slave owner and richest man in Georgia. NCI is now growing pecans and using the antebellum mansion on the property as a retreat and training center, still committed to its original mission of promoting racial justice and economic development.


March 14, 2023
12:00 pm - 1:15 pm EDT


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