Eco-Stories: David Harper – Land and the Future of Land Ownership

Eco-Stories: David Harper – Land and the Future of Land Ownership

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. See the full interview below.

David Harper is a land conservation professional with more than 30 years of experience working with landowners and land trusts to preserve over 7,000 acres of farmland, natural areas, cultural and historic sites. He has raised more than $7 million in grant funding for conservation planning, land conservation, sustainable agriculture and local food system development, and ecological restoration projects in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern US. Through his consulting practice, Land In Common, David serves as a Land Legacy Advocate for landowners who wish to leave their land a legacy benefitting future generations. He also provides strategic support for conservation non-profit organizations, including Agrarian Trust.

This interview was recorded on February 26, 2020.
Agrarian Trust:
David Harper’s email:
Permaculture Living Lands Trust:
CHI design indigo:

Fiona Martin (FM): Welcome. Today we're here with David Harper from Land In Common. I'm really excited David. You're my first American interviewee and the first one in person. So I hope everything goes well. But I'm really excited to talk to you about land and how we work with land, how we've worked with land through history. And in particular, the history of land ownership. So let's start there. Have people always owned land? And how was that relationship with land ownership shaped our culture and how we view land?

David Harper (DH):
Well, thank you Fiona. It's great to be here with you. And thank you again for hosting Eco-Interviews. I feel like this is a very important series that can and should go global, and excited to be part of it. So thanks for doing what you do.

So my work with land really starts with a calling, I would say. I mean, I think we all have a calling if we listen closely enough. And for me, the calling had to do with looking at land as not just property, but more of a common. Something that is timeless, is ancient, and really is our connection to earth. Our home, "eco" meaning home.

So for me, that calling has to do with healing the relationship between humans and the earth. I feel that when I look at my lifetime from 1965 to present, especially in America, the ability to extract and convert landscapes has increased exponentially.

But, my understanding is that property is really a newer concept. And I've brought an example of how, to me, property is a newer concept. If you can see that this is a deed. And it's framed, it's been in my family since 1717, that's the date on the deed. It's a sheepskin deed. It's got the wax seals on it, and it's all written in hand quill pen. But it's not to say, "Isn't this cool? I have this deed." What's cool about it is it's for 467 acres. It's for land that is in Southeast Pennsylvania. What we now call Chester County, Pennsylvania, and it was even called Chester County then. But it's outside of Philadelphia. And this actually is one of the first deeds that actually was on that parcel of land. Because if you think about it before 1717, what was there?

It was the Lenni Lenape Indian land. So Native American land. They didn't have deeds. So when did it become property? It really became property probably right around 1717, when the King of England granted land to William Penn. I don't know why it was his to grant in the first place, but apparently it was because he had a bigger set guns and a bigger navy. And this land got passed down through the family and eventually became developed into housing.

So interesting point though is what is a deed? What is title to property? What is ownership of property? And I'm not saying it's good or bad. I just sold a house. I love owning a house and being able to buy a house. But sometimes I look at our pattern on the land, and I think a lot of it
is tied to this idea of land as a commodity.

So previous to land ownership, let's just think about what that is. What was there before deeds exactly?

So thinking about earth as a commons, I mean it's hard to really say what that means. You can look back at traditional or indigenous cultures around the world, and they may have fought over territory. I mean North America is a great example. There were always in some cases spats and disputes between different tribes about land. But it was never about ownership of the land. It was simply about what was their territory, what was the part of the earth that they were dwelling on essentially, and hunting on, and fishing on.

So when we look at Europe, obviously there was a trend called the Enclosure Acts period, which really started probably in the 1300 and 1400's and continued up until the 1700's. But Enclosure Acts, the way I understand it, was essentially a way of monarchs and kings saying, "We would like to have more control over these parcels of ground. So we're going to pass laws that say if you're noble, if you're a monarch, if you're a king, this land is under your control. And it's no longer hunting land for commoners or grazing or farming land."

So that idea of the Enclosure Acts is a very important period in history because the reason there's a 1717 deed in America I think is directly tied to that period. Because it was the sense that land can be a commodity, land can be property, you can have a surveyed boundary and that becomes something you pay for and own.

So I think we're wise to look around the world. Look at the Amazon today or look at Borneo or the Indonesian rainforests or the Congo in Africa. The destruction that's going on as we speak has a lot to do with commodifying that land. Because prior to that, it could have just been native territory. And then under certain governments, those governments assume that that land is under their control, not the indigenous people's control. And suddenly those governments open up opportunities for corporations or for settlement. And that's just a recurring theme throughout human history. So how do we heal the human relationship with the earth through our relationship with land as property or as an asset for the communities in which we live?

And you've touched on this a little bit. But this modern concept of land ownership and making a commodity, it's something that has shaped our society completely. So can we explore some of those themes about how it shapes our society and then the effects it's had directly on the environment as well?

Well, I can start by talking about the conservation movement in America because that's been my whole career. For 30 plus years, I've been drawn to this idea that we can save land from, essentially from uses that we don't like or we don't agree with. So if you look at what are called conservation land trusts, the first land trust in North America began right around 1891. So over 100 years ago, people in Massachusetts decided that there was too much logging, there was too much destruction of nature. And there were special places that they wanted to save even in that Victorian era. So they formed an organization that essentially was like a museum, but it was a museum to acquire and own, and hold land. And that became what's called the Trustees of Reservations. That's the first land trust in America.

You fast forward to the 1950s and '60's when the first urban sprawl really started happening around major cities like New York and Philadelphia. Then you began to see a second wave of land trusts that began to say, "Well, if we create a nonprofit that can preserve good working farm land or important natural areas or water supplies, then that's a good thing because we can't stop growth. We can't stop development. But at least we can create more of a balance."

So essentially to this day, the land trust movement has only continued to grow. There's about 1,350 nonprofit land trusts around the country. Many of those benefit from the tax laws that allow a private land owner to essentially preserve their property and receive some kind of compensation, either through tax benefit or in some cases grants that actually pay for the right to preserve that land. But if you expand that out globally, probably the number one conservation entity in the world is called The Nature Conservancy. So they're one of the top nonprofit organizations anywhere. They acquire, and own, and manage land all over the world in all continents, except I think Antarctica. Essentially for the preservation of nature, biological diversity, and rare habitats and rare species.

So the fact that those exist is a sense of saying there is a stewardship ethic among humans. Humans do know that we can't just keep taking, we can't just keep turning land into commodities. And in fact, I think one of the best quotes that captures that stewardship ethic was a gentleman by the name of Aldo Leopold. He was a famous author and really a naturalist back in the 1940's and 50's. He wrote a book called A Sand County Almanac that is considered in some cases one of the bibles of the land conservation movement. And his quote was that we abuse land because we view it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, then we will be in to use it with love and respect. So that idea of community versus commodity, abuse versus respect. Those are very important terms in how we relate to land.

So not to say that land use and land development are bad things. We all need to live, we all need to buy groceries, go to school, everything. It's really just a question of are we designing with nature? The reason I went to graduate school in the early '90's to study with a gentleman named Ian McHarg, who was a well known environmental planner at that time, was that he had written a book called Design with Nature. And to this day, I use that in my work. And that is asking the question for the land to tell us how to use it, not for us to impose our will on the land. So let's do things in a way that fit within the ecosystem that we are part of and that supports our life.

Yeah, super interesting actually. A few things that are running through my head. Treating land as a commodity. An easy example for me to understand why that doesn't always work as you may be able to put a fence around the land, but the stream that runs through your bit of land also runs through your neighbor's land. And the air that you breathe is all over. So to treat it as my parcel, I can do what I want is not being a good neighbor, I think to those around us.

But also I'm interested. Conserving land versus being a human within nature. That is super interesting. Because as you mentioned, we do have to live, we have homes. And that has always been that way from ancient times that we have developed places to live and we developed the land to help feed us.

I'm noticing in some circles that there's a little bit of a backlash on the straight conservancy. I don't know if that's the right word, conservation aspect of fencing off something and just not allowing anyone in it. Do you get into that aspect at all?

Yeah, of course. In fact, many of the conservation groups that started in the Northeast and another parts of the country that were rapidly urbanizing, they knew that they couldn't save all the land. They weren't going to try to keep everyone out and just leave it for nature. So in some cases, groups that I worked with became essentially urban planners. They were saving important woodlands, and streams, and farmlands. But they were doing it in a way that fit within the growth of an urban area. So I was involved with many sessions where we worked one on one with the larger developers in the nation, the larger home builders in the nation to say if you're going to put 100 houses on a 200 acre tract of land, let's design it in such a way that is designing with nature, that does fit with the land. So that once those 100 houses are built, it's not just gridded out as yet another wall-to-wall subdivision. But it's actually a human dwelling neighborhood within a park-like setting that still has the native plants and animals living there. So that's one example.

But I think looking to the future, there's a lot of opportunity to take this idea of a commons and say, "Well, can we create a nonprofit that owns and manages land, essentially holding it in trust for the community?" So if you take land off the speculative real estate market, you take it essentially out of either being private property or public property like a park. What's in between public and private might be this nonprofit ownership that is more of a commons. And essentially, it can be created to hold land and trust for community use. But the use might be agriculture in a way that is ecological farming. The use might be selective forestry in a way that still keeps the forest healthy, but uses the timber wisely. So there are different ways to look at stewardship of land and ownership of land that are not about fencing it off from humans, but saying let's live responsibly as humans within the ecosystem.

I love it. You're very involved with the Agrarian Trust. Is this a theme within the Agrarian Trust? Can you talk to us about that?

Sure, yeah. I'm glad you brought that up. So as part of the, what I would call the evolution of conservation land trust has been a subset of those, or even a new version of those, which are called community land trusts. So essentially a community land trust instead of saving land for nature, saving land just to keep farmland scenic and productive, they're actually saying, how do we save land that's for the future of farming, that's for beginning farmers to have access to land? Even if they can't afford to pay 10, 20, $30,000 an acre, which are often the prices for farmland close to where the market is, which would be urban settings or suburban settings.

So Agrarian Trust started probably 2013, 2014. Really grew out of a group called the Greenhorns. The Greenhorns was a national movement representing the young farmers in this country, the beginning farmers. And essentially saying, "We have a voice. We have a presence." Even though farming used to be something that even the federal government said you either get big or you get out. There's whole generation of people now saying, "We want an agrarian life. I want to grow food for my community. I want to work with the soil and do it in a way that doesn't use chemicals." So that next generation of farmers.

Essentially, the group the Agrarian Trust formed as a nonprofit in order to hold land in trust for the benefit of beginning a next generation farmers. So it's working in different states around the country. I'm assisting with some projects both through fundraising but also through essentially helping land owners who decide that they either want to give land, gift their land into that agrarian trust. Or sell it, and helping find ways to raise the money to buy that land. But these are often land owners who say, "My farm is special to me. My farm means something to my family. But I want it to be a bigger legacy than just turning it over to the next farmer or to a developer. I would like my land to become a legacy that is essentially a commons for food production in my community indefinitely." And that's what Agrarian Trust does.

That's amazing. Yeah. My understanding of the North American farming landscape right now is the average age of a farmer is 65 or 70. And usually their children don't want to farm. They're just not interested. That's quite common. You don't necessarily always want to do what your parents want to do. So I've heard at least that there is going to be a crisis of land in the next 10, 15 years as these farmers die off. And it's either going to be gobbled up by huge corporations that use chemical farming and monocropping, and things that we're realizing maybe aren't benefiting us that much.

But then there's a whole generation my age who didn't grow up as a farmer, but we kind of want to be farmers. But maybe we don't have the capital. So it's exciting to hear that there are programs out there that are trying to address this problem. Right?

It sure is. In fact, I mean I think we are at a crossroads once again in our history where the mantra of "feeding the world" keeps coming up. How do we feed the world? And there's a certain amount of assumption behind that phrase that we are going to feed the world rather than humans around the world feeding themselves. So what does that look like if it means 7.7 billion people on the planet now projected to reach 9 billion over the coming decades or even higher, if it means creating technological solutions, industrial agriculture solutions, genetically modified foods, laboratory foods. All the things that seem to be coming up as profitable markets for feeding the world. That's a whole different mindset than a community saying how do we provide food security and nourishment for our own community? How do we think as a region in a way that doesn't depend on global shipping. In a way that doesn't depend on Monsanto or Bayer, or one of these companies to create the next genetically modified food or the next chemical based agriculture system. How do we feed ourselves in a way that's really creating an economy within our bioregion?

That term of bioregion is an important one. When I talk about native land, I mean you look at where we are sitting right now today in Columbia, South Carolina. You can say this land has been property for probably 250, 300 years. But before that or at least right around the 1600's and for thousands of years before that, it was essentially Catawba native people as well as Congaree native people. So if anyone doesn't know what their land, where they sit today originally was and who were the stewards of that land, it's an important question to ask.

But as we fast forward to now, thinking about that bioregion the same way the Catawba people thought about this region, we know it has pine forests, we know it has sandy soils, we know it has freshwater streams. And we know the species that live there the same way they did. The question is how do we work within those ecosystems? How do we produce vegetables, and fruits, and meats, and nuts, and even dairy if we feel we need it, but how do we do that in a way that's designed to fit the forest ecosystem that is the natural system here? And work within it rather than say we're going to get rid of the native ecosystem or replace it with our version of agriculture? So I think that that's an opportunity. Bioregional food systems and food security rather than trying to feed the world from an industrial or a more corporate model.

Nice. If you had a magic wand and we can make this bioregion self-sufficient, can you give me some ideas of what that would look like?

Great example. Well unfortunately, I'm not a doomsday-er. I'm what I would say a solutionary. I think there was a gentleman who was an organic farming pioneer named Tony Kleese, who used to call himself a solutionary. And I've really, that word has stuck with me. I believe we all can be solutionaries.

So if we take the route of optimism and hope, even as things get more uncertain, that means understanding the bioregion first. So if we understand the ecosystems, we really all can become naturalists. We really all can become gardeners in a sense, and begin to think about food production more locally, even in our backyards. Or even in our community gardens, or even in neighborhood farms that may be around the city. Where we are sitting right now, there's thousands of acres of good farm land within a 15 minute drive of the state capital of South Carolina. It's called Richland County or lower Richland County, and that's some of the richest land around.

So you would take a look at those food producing areas and say, "How can we begin to restore them as ecosystems that produce food?" So to answer your question, I would say if we live in a naturally forested area, how can we mimic the forest ecosystem but do it in a way that puts food on the table? So in other words, we know there are native pawpaws and persimmons. We know there are native pecans and hickory nuts. We know there are native even wild game such as turkey, or deer, or quail. But can we design food systems in a way that bring back some of that functionality of the native forest, but doing it in a way that's still creating staple foods for the population here? And it may take a crisis before we get to that point. We might find that with sea level rise and people moving inland, and suddenly having to have a lot more people living in our communities inland from the coast, that might be the type of crisis we need to figure it out.

In terms of the food system in the native bioregion, as you said, I hope that we could look back to the people who were here before us. Because I realize, as I've gone back through history and reading things outside of what I learned in high school U.S. history class, is that we came to land that was already settled. There were people here already who were thriving. And we brought our agriculture over instead of maybe learning from the people who were already there. So just in a mini version, I'm excited to start growing The Three Sisters in my garden. I really want to do that, because those were naturally farmed here. And they should do well. And it's interesting that we struggle so much as well bringing agriculture from another land and trying to reproduce it here. I think a lot of our agricultural struggle is based on that. There's a lot of abundance around us that is easier like the pawpaw, like you said. So that's super interesting to think about.

So everyone's sort of on a different journey as to where they are with the climate crisis. What sort of advice would you give someone who's just starting to wake up to this?

So I think we make a lot of assumptions that you're either with us or against us. You either buy into that this is all caused by humans and we've got to dig ourselves out of a hole. Or you feel like there are too many questions and we don't have all the answers, and we'll just ride it out and see what happens. So whichever perspective you take, I don't think, for me it's not worth putting energy into is this an anthropogenic cause or an eco genic cause? Is it caused by humans? Is it caused by natural systems on their normal path? I don't know that we have the answer to that. What I know is if you look at those curves of carbon emissions, it's pretty eyeopening within the industrial era. There's no doubt that carbon is in the atmosphere. So the amount of parts per million, what is it, 400 plus parts per million. That's staggering compared to 3 million years of history where there had never been any evidence that that level of carbon has been in the atmosphere.

I'm also amazed if you really research it and try to understand it. There are different warming periods and cooling periods. So we can't claim to know all of the history of those cycles throughout history prior to humans. But what we do know is that there are other forces at work too. If you think about all of the clearing of land that goes with agriculture, especially under industrial agriculture for the last 100 plus years with tractors, with technology allowing more plowing, more tilling, more clearing. Soil scientists I think based out of Australia, a woman who her name escapes me now. But her theory is that we've released so much soil moisture into the atmosphere. Not just carbon, but the actual water that every year would be held in deep rooted natural systems in the soil as a living soil. Because we've converted so many living soils into essentially dead dirt, you might say, that moisture holding capacity is essentially gone in any given year. So that so much more water is up in the atmosphere as soil humidity rising up, that that in itself could act as a way of capturing heat on the planet. So if you combine carbon with things like methane, but also essentially saying maybe soil humidity is a greenhouse gas unto itself that we've caused. That's a pretty staggering possibility.

So to me, all signs keep pointing back to ecological systems. Whether it's human dwellings, whether it's energy production, whether it's food production. All of those point back to learning from the land on which we live. Learning from the ancient natural systems that are here. And finding ways to mimic those. Essentially is biomimicry at a landscape scale. So that's what brings us to the food forest idea.

So if someone wants to have a vision for hope in the future, then perhaps it is not just saving farm land and not just preserving the idea of farming, but actually reinventing what farming looks like and reinventing how we feed ourselves at a community scale. So there's a lot more to talk about there.

Yeah. I am absolutely geeking out so much right now because I'm doing a regenerative gardening course, and I was completely unaware of the carbon sequestration ability of soil. So I do want to talk about that, because I think a lot of people don't understand that, myself included until the past year. And please correct me if I'm wrong on this, but the parts per million in carbon is incredibly high. 400 parts per million, that is crazy. And it's the greenhouse gas, but it is also the degradation of our environment. Because as we were taught in school, plants take in carbon dioxide and they release oxygen. And we take in oxygen and release carbon dioxide. So I find it interesting with some of these technological fixes for climate change is trying to create machines that are going to suck carbon out of the air. When in reality, we have that all around us. The ocean is a carbon sink, and it's taking in so much carbon it's becoming acidified. So fish are dying. Our trees, as we cut them down, we're losing those.

But even our lawn. The grass that we grow in our lawns is a very, very shallow root system. They don't take in the carbon dioxide that maybe natural long grasses, or trees, or shrubs would take in. And not only is the shallow root an issue for the carbon sequestration, it also leads to the issues that we have with flooding and storm runoff.

So I mean, who knew that my lawn was a) causing issues, and b) also a solution. I can work on my little one acre and try and turn that into something that's going to suck the carbon down. And it's this whole circular motion that somehow people have extracted themselves from when the rest of the world is in this natural cycle. Talking about even breathing and eating, but also the food that we eat instead of it going to the landfill, you compost it and it goes back into the garden and grows food. And it just excites me so much. So I imagine a lot of your bioregion and shrinking down and trying to make this local includes that. Is that correct, yeah?

Exactly. One of my favorite quotes is from a guy named Bill Mollison. Bill Mollison was considered the founder of what's now known as permaculture. So permaculture grew out of a movement in Australia back in the '70's, but today it's worldwide. It's a very important concept that borrows from ancient traditions of indigenous people, but also looks to a future of ecological design. Essentially says how do we meet human needs. Shelter, food, energy, water, transportation, how do we meet those needs in a way that is in harmony with our ecosystems? And his quote was, "If we all become gardeners, if we all just garden, this will be a different planet." And I think there's some truth to that. We've removed ourselves so far from the source of the water, the source of the soil, the air, the shelter, the energy. That if we find ways to reconnect with that, maybe it's joining a CSA that you know your local farmer. Maybe it is being part of a community garden in your neighborhood. Maybe it's putting a green roof on your garage. Anything you can think of that acknowledges that you are connected to these living systems is huge. And your point about living soils is probably one of the biggest.

If you think of earth as Gaia. The term Gaia, Greek. The whole idea that earth could be an organism. And if we really wake up to that, that not only does earth contain living systems within this very thin biosphere, but all those living systems somehow function together to regulate the planet. We're part of that. So if we throw it out of whack with carbon, if we throw it out of whack with clearing way too much land for the systems to work, then the onus is on us to put it back in balance. How do we reset the balance that we've upset? And that can be through the types of personal tasks that you're talking about. Taking responsibility for building healthy soil.

I know when I compost, I have the feeling every time I don't put compost in a compost bin and then back in the soil, it's like I'm starving the soil. No matter where those groceries came from, they might've come from California. But if I'm not feeding the soil here where I live and I'm just putting it in the trash, then I'm not really doing my job as a human on planet earth.

Oh, I feel you. And I have friends as well who once you get into composting, if you go on a trip somewhere and you're not near composting facilities and you have that banana peel and you're like, "I don't want to throw this in the bin." You get that way. So yeah, there's definitely the individual actions we can do. Like I said personally, I'm working on regenerative gardening. Trying to convince my husband to do some more permaculture. He's not excited about big mounds of lasagna mulching in our front yard, but I think I'm going to get him there. But let's talk about on a bigger level, because I do think individual actions together do make a big change. But in reality, we need systematic change. And that's either going to be through our governments, which I find are very slow because there's a lot of interests that want other things to happen. And they have more power and maybe voice than me alone does. But you're in this nonprofit sector. So how do you see the nonprofit and the organizations that you work for being able to move forward with this sort of change?

That's a great thought. It may come to property because that's kind of how I orient to the world. That if property is a relatively new concept and if property is part of the reason we are losing rain forest, if property is part of the reason that we have killed so many of our soils. Then how do we reinvent our relationship to property?

And if you take an organization like The Nature Conservancy, which again is one of the most successful nonprofit or nongovernmental organizations in the world. Their ability to raise capital, to acquire land as property and essentially steward it as a biodiversity commons, a commons for native plants and animals. Whether it's coral reefs, or tropical rainforests, or the tundra. I mean those bioregions that they're helping to protect are examples of resetting that balance that we talked about, that humans have upset.

So if you take that same model of a nonprofit that has a global footprint, but do it in a way that that global footprint connects with the people who live in those communities wherever they are. Essentially then, you're not putting a fence around that nature preserve. And not to say The Nature Conservancy does that, they really don't. But how do you look at the communities in which a nonprofit operates anywhere in the world, and see them as having a voice, having a stake in the future stewardship of that land?

So I think a lot about things like what are called land grabs. You look at places like Africa, where there's still much of the land is still very productive, very tillable or arable land. Even in places we might consider very hot and dry, there's still very much productive land in Africa that as we speak, there are large pools of capital. There are large investment pools, often with U.S. roots, that buy up land around the world in what's called farmland investing. And farmland investing on its own doesn't sound like a bad idea. But what's happening that I'm concerned about are huge areas. I mean tens of thousands of acres at a time in places like Tanzania or Ethiopia, or other parts of the world where these investment pools have identified the most productive land. They've worked with tribal leaders or government leaders to say, "We would like to acquire this. We're going to help create jobs." But essentially, the pattern is industrial agriculture on a huge scale in developing parts of the world. And the people living in those communities on that land either becoming employees of those industrial farms or moving off into urban areas, which as we all know are essentially slums that keep getting bigger, and bigger, and bigger in many, many cities.

So how do we take that farmland investing model, what some people would call land grabs, and turn it into an investing model for a nonprofit that is actually about keeping people on that land, finding new ways to produce on that land, and not export it to a market like Europe? But produce food, and energy, and wood, whatever the needs are. But do it at that bioregional scale. And I think that's the opportunity I see are global nonprofits working with community boards or community representation to create essentially bioregional economies through a new form of commons that is not driven by investment. But is driven by reinvesting in land and reinvesting in people.

Yeah. It sounds like the farm investment model is an extension of colonialism. Yeah.

Yeah. If you take the political terms that we use, and we're trying to wake up to these legacies of abuse of land and commodification of land. Then yes. If you're not calling that land a colony of a country, it can suddenly become essentially a colony that's just under the title of whoever owns it. And whatever company or group of companies own it. So, yeah. So I think farmland investing can be done with a whole different mindset as well as timber investing, etc. And I'm excited about the possibilities there as long as there's local representation and it's not an imbalance.

Yeah. Local representation is something we've talked about in other episodes when we were just talking about Blue Carbon, making sure the local communities around the mangrove forest are involved in it. And trying to keep the people who are on the land, on the land. And making it beneficial for everyone involved.

And ecological design. I mean, if we take an industrial mindset everywhere we put our foot down on this planet, it's not going to work. We have to act as though we are a part of the natural systems, which we are.

So we've hit on a lot of really good topics here. Maybe some of our listeners want to learn more, whether it's about the certain topics, if you have resources you can direct them to, or about the organizations you're involved in directly. What sort of resources can you point us towards to learn more?

Yeah. Great. Thanks for asking. So we mentioned Agrarian Trust, which is the nonprofit that I work with. That is They have a great website. So you'll see a great model for an American-based national movement of creating a commons for food production.

And I'm also involved with formation of a nonprofit called the Permaculture Living Lands Trust. And it's a really exciting idea that permaculture is a global movement with thousands of people who've learned skills, taken these trainings, and then combining that with the global conservation movement, which is essentially saying let's create these nonprofits to own land and hold it in trust for community benefit. So combining those two, we're creating the Permaculture Living Lands Trust. And that is on Facebook. We're creating our webpage now, but it's Permaculture Living Lands Trust under Facebook, you'll see us. So check that out.

But my work is going to continue in those avenues with those types of organizations. And I think there are many others out there. So if you're interested in my personal recommendations for your own life path and your own research, I'm always happy to share ideas. So I guess you can make sure my email is in there somewhere.

Exactly. We'll link you up in the show notes for sure. Would you like sharing some information about you and your wife are on an Indigo farm, is that correct?

Thanks for asking. Yeah, so my wife is a textile artist. She is originally from France. And her company that she launched five years ago was called CHI design indigo. Like chi, like energy in Chinese. So C-H-I Design Indigo. And she has a website. Because we live in South Carolina and because there is a history here of working with indigo plants to produce that magical blue dye, she has actually started her business to look at the future of indigo. Not only in South Carolina, but in other places such as France and her homeland.

So we're excited about that. She's done some excellent work with creating textiles for personal fashion or for interior design. But we do that in a way that grows the same plant that was grown here in the 1700's. Unfortunately, it has that heaviness of the slave economy because it was a plant that was grown on plantations by slaves. But the story is there was a woman named Eliza Lucas Pinckney, who was this teenager who essentially developed a way of producing indigo with slaves that was able to be exported to England from about 1740's through the 1770's, as one of the main sources of dye for textiles all over Europe. But when the British lost the Revolutionary War, that industry went away. And to this day, when you buy a natural indigo dye, much of it comes from the Bengal region of India. And that's where the British moved their production at that time.

So we're part of a whole network of producers here in South Carolina working to bring back indigo. And really indigo is a global product. It's really a type of dye that comes from many different types of plants. And people in Africa, people in Asia, people in Peru have figured out for thousands of years how to produce these dyes, natural dyes from plants.

So we're just the latest in a very long line of people working with these plants, but doing it in a way that could show a path forward for how to re-localize fiber, how to re-localize not only food production, but production of the clothing on our backs. Perhaps as part of a bioregional economy as well. So if you're familiar with fiber shed, the concept of a fiber shed, that's a really important concept. We know about watersheds where we get our drinking water. We can think about food sheds as where we get our food from. But a fiber shed might mean that if our jeans are made in China, that's a pretty big global reach. But there is the capacity to produce at least some clothing from products grown within the places that we live.

So interesting. I look forward to seeing some of your wife's work and maybe getting my hands on it. I've noticed a resurgence in natural dyes in this area in particular. Even the wife of my veterinarian does natural dyes using onion and vegetables, and stuff like that. And the colors that come from it are just beautiful. So that's exciting.

Well David, I really appreciate you taking the time to do this. It's super interesting. I could talk to you forever about land and Land In Common. And our food systems, and bioregions, and all that sort of stuff. So I appreciate you being with us.

Well, thank you FM. So nice to be here, and long live the earth.