Guide to Creating an Agrarian Commons

The Agrarian Commons is a new model of land stewardship and access that allows for community ownership of farmland. In partnership with the nonprofit Agrarian Trust, which established 10 Agrarian Commons across the US in 2020, CAFS created the following legal guide for anyone interested in establishing one. The guide outlines bylaws, land stewardship standards, equitable lease-building, and more. It also includes summaries of discussions with lawyers, farmers, and other practitioners who participated in creating the legal documents. While focused on Agrarian Commons, we hope that the guide will be used to assist those looking to establish similar legal structures, such as community-based ownership/stewardship of land, or equitable leases based on long-term tenure and regenerative practices.

The process of creating the legal documents that are the legal structure of the Agrarian Commons was a collaborative one, captured in comments by the lawyers, farmers, and other practitioners who participated. Following are the relevant documents, along with some of the conversation/comments that accompanied their drafting.


When Agrarian Trust first began looking at legal models for the Agrarian Commons, the organization believed that most of the Commons would be  formed as nonprofit 501(c)(2) or (c)(25) community land trusts.  That changed, and the Commons are able to form a variety of legal structures.  We will be adding information to this Guide to reflect but, but for now, the documents in the Guide reflect early discussions and so, focus on the formation of 501(c)(2) organizations.

501(c)(2) By-laws and comments/discussion

501(c)(25) By-laws and comments/discussion

A key value of all Agrarian Commons is ecologically regenerative stewardship of the land by the farmers leasing the land.

A unique component of each Agrarian Commons is that Agrarian Trust, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation, is the “parent” corporation of all the Agrarian Commons.

Agricultural Lease Terms by State

Finally, state law governs how long a farm lease term can be. Some states have no set limits while others only allow a lease to be a maximum of 10 years long.

Coming soon!

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