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Farmland Under Threat (with Brooks Lamb, American Farmland Trust)

August 23, 2022

Farmland Under Threat



Across the United States, 11 million acres of farmland have been lost from 2001 to 2016. In Tennessee, we lost around 650,000 acres with an additional 1 million acres of land projected to be converted by 2040. Much of the loss comes from the conversion of land to subdivisions and large-lot housing development. Beyond just agriculture, farmlands can provide economic, cultural, and social benefits to our communities. And when stewarded well, farmland can provide environmental benefits. Farmland loss particularly impacts our small and mid-sized farms and farmers. These threats to our farmlands can impact us all.

In today’s River Talk, we are joined by Brooks Lamb, Program Associate and Specialist Assistant to the President at American Farmland Trust. Brooks shares about the current threats to America’s farmland and what that means for us right here in Tennessee. We talk about the impacts on small and mid-sized farmers, and how connecting new farmers to land and to sustainable agricultural best practices can be a win-win.

About Brooks Lamb:

Brooks assists with various initiatives in the Southeast and across the nation as the Program Associate and Special Assistant to the President at American Farmland Trust. He also advances AFT’s mission through writing. He recently earned his master’s degree at Yale School of the Environment, where his work focused on understanding small and mid-sized farmers’ environmental stewardship in the face of adversity. Through professional and personal experiences, including his selection as a Truman Scholar in 2016, Brooks has nurtured a passion for serving people and places.

Brooks is the author of  Overton Park: A People’s History (Univ. of Tennessee Press, 2019), which he wrote as a student at Rhodes College. This book uses oral history to tell the story of Memphis’s most beloved public space. Brooks currently has a second book—which explores farmers’ connections to place and stewardship motivations via in-depth interviews and other methods—under review at a press. He has also published multiple essays, articles, and op-eds.

Brooks grew up on a small farm in Holt’s Corner, Tennessee. His family and the farm have helped him cultivate a strong work ethic, an understanding of hope, and a commitment to community.

Learn more about him on his website.

Read Brooks’ latest Opinion article in The Tennessean, “We’re paving over the foundation of rural Tennessee. There’s a better way forward.”

Get Certified as a River Friendly Farm with the Cumberland River Compact!

In this Podcast:

  • Current threats to American Farmland including farmland loss, farm transition, and land access.
  • The environmental, cultural, agricultural, economic, and social benefits of farmland.
  • The generational divide in farmers and impacts of farm transition on our agricultural system.
  • Special impacts of these issues on small and mid-sized farmers
  • The racial divide in who owns American farmland, and specific impacts on Black farmers.
  • Linking new farmers to sustainable agricultural practices
  • Practicing authentic hope and persistence in place.

Learn more about the resources mentioned in this episode: