A friend called me yesterday from a consulting job in Florida where for a week he's been developing an alternative fertility program on a massive billionaire's estate. Yes, you saw that right--not millionaire, but billionaire.
The family trust now operates the outfit but the infusion of money makes everything alarmingly uncreative and bureaucratic. I have no animosity against rich people; most are wonderful folks who worked harder or more cleverly than average. I do not adhere to the idea of ill-gotten gain.
What embroils the spirit, however, is that when wealthy people buy land--as if land can ultimately be for sale, but that's another topic for another day--invariably all the principles that made them wealthy get thrown out the door. Suddenly they turn into country clubbers, hire groundskeepers and build white picket fences, buy expensive tractors and get all their information from the government extension service.
As this friend began describing the hundreds of thousands of wasted money and the reluctance on the part of employees to embrace anything creative, my thoughts wandered, as they invariably do, to the many hardworking, faithful, creative young people I encounter who desperately want to farm but don't have money. It's as if some great dystopian fairy sprinkled land ownership on moneyed people who don't have a clue about stewardship, and withheld land ownership from those who would steward it best.
I've decided that the best advice I can give to any rich land owner is to simply step away and offer the land to an enterprising young person. If the young person fails, offer it to another. After a couple of rotations, you'll find the right match. My daughter-in-law, Sheri, has started an international farm matchmaking service called eagerfarmer.com. Some wonderful success stories are coming out of this service.
I'm not in favor of handouts--struggling is good. But the access to land issue is huge, not to buy, but to just get a toe hold, an access point. Literally thousands of properties, if not hundreds of thousands of properties scattered around the U.S. are owned by wealthy folks who simply have no desire or knowledge about ecologically regenerative production agriculture. Meanwhile, often within walking distance, passionate young people desperate for a toe hold can't seem to get access to a square foot. As one who yearns for better land stewardship and next-gen germination, I've come almost to despise these wealthy country club estates as resource disrespectful.
I confess to wrestling with resentment at the seeming unfairness of it all, that we have resources misused, abused, and disappreciated alongside young people ready and willing to pour their lives into healing caress.
Where are the wealthy land owners ready to give a young person access to land? Where?