One of our goals at the Golden Seed Land Trust is to create a model of community land ownership. Such concepts are already established with the typical community land trust(CLT). The idea of buying land and holding in a trust structure is not a new one. To explain exactly what a land trust is you can look here (https://www.idfpr.com/Banks/CONSUMER/Tips/TRUSTS.ASP) for a more detailed explanation. But in short a land trust is form of ownership that divides the title into two parts. The legal ownership called a trustee, who is legally responsible for the property. And equitable ownership called the beneficiary who benefits from the financial and the entity that receives all the financial benefit from the property. This can be arranged in many ways but that is the basic concept. It is my view that our current land ownership system is parasitic. Meaning a majority of the land rents or mortgage payments are siphoned off out of the communities and into a very few number of banks. This has proven to be a very draining system of land ownership. Martin Adams illustrates the ideas of Georgist philosophy(http://www.henrygeorge.org/aller.htm) in his book "Land"(https://www.unitism.com/) and lays out some fundamental ideas of the issues with our current land use policies. I believe that this concept is one possible method to move toward a more symbiotic land stewardship model is to utilize the Illinois land trust for of ownership. We envision a local non-profit or similar entity that would purchase or have donated land. Then transfer each property into a land trust naming itself as the beneficiary. It would then give a long term lease to a properly vetted individual or group at a low cost. This cost would include, property taxes, insurance and a small monthly or yearly donation to the non-profit. In the case where capital improvements to the land existed a variety of methods could be utilized to transfer those assets to the trustee or future trustee. We do not claim to have the answers to these complex issues but the Community Land Trusts (CLT's) have found a few methods that work. This model would provide a few advantages to our current system, it would help reduce the cost and need for a costly mortgage to future generations. It would also help stabilize property prices and allow the rents that the community generates to circulate in the local community before being siphoned off. Once this land trust cell reached 4 or so properties it would be able to purchase new ones at an ever increasing rate and after a certain period of time may be in a position to purchase a new property each year if needed. Another huge advantage to using this kind of model is when farm land was transferred. The new owner/trustee would have actual contact and sometimes close contact with the retiring farmer. This would allow for a transfer of local cultural knowledge and site specific knowledge of how to care for the land. Something that is often lost forever with our current system. Ideally these trust cells would be run by a council of trustee's who each have a property of their own and other members of the local community. There are a variety of way this council could operate but we believe that the goals of; water, food, shelter and energy should be promoted for each property to achieve. The thought of offering a reduced donation if sites were able to produce these needs on site to help incentivize sustainability. Of course, as with any system of governance and centralization of power there always is the chance of corruption. So the more localized these cells the more insulated our communities would be. Even if this concept were implemented on a single property scale, the land trust structure offers great deal of advantages over our standard ownership methods. Particularly in farm land, a trust would allow an aging farmer to lease their land to a new farmer and setup mutually beneficial agreements and a possible method of transition as well. If we hope to evolve as society we must emulate how nature evolves, I look to the fungi as an ideal adaptable organism. It tests new methods and then reports back to the group, as each cell is its own individual but together they form the fungus. We should do the same, we should test ideas and models and have a centralized place to report back the results. This is the goal of the Golden Seed to be a hub of projects, ideas and agreements so that we can relearn how to live in harmony with our environment and communities.
Land Trust Project
Updated: Jan 19