Food Forests

Land ownership – private or leased?

Most forest farmers secure long term land access through private ownership by buying land. When leasing land for agroforestry, the planning horizon is limited and insecure as at some point the lease ends and may not be renewed. A maximum length of lease contracts for agricultural land, e.g., in Germany, restricts leases to a maximum of 30 years – a time when an agroforestry system thrives. What happens to the system after the lease ends or if unforeseeable events lead to an earlier cancellation of the lease contract? What happens with the trees and other plants? Is there a compensation for the high investment costs of implementing the system or will cost occur to remove the system? Details on what to consider for a lease contract for an agroforestry system in Germany can be found at the DeFAF (in German).

At both Hof an den Teichen and Arcosanti, the land is owned by a foundation which promotes sustainable land use. Foundations provide a long-term security as they are legally bound to a defined purpose. In the US, a foundation is a nongovernmental, nonprofit corporation often legally organized like what is considered an association in Germany. However, in Germany, to form a foundation, a financial base capital is required (a minimum of 25.000€, on average more like 100.000€) to ensure administrative and funding costs are covered. At Rehfelde, land is secured through an association that acts like a farming business and bought the land. We will show how this unusual model was achieved, and which legal requirements are relevant to count as a farming business for the different public agencies involved in this decision in Germany (see Chap. 8).

At the FFC, land access is insecure as it is leased for 10 years by Spaces of Opportunity. Discussions on a land trust are ongoing but slow.