On Sunday, May 19th at Saint James Place in Great Barrington, Massachussets, Peter Buffett, co-president of the NoVo Foundation in Kingston, NY, and Peter Taylor, president of Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation (BTCF) in Sheffield, MA, spoke at the joint Annual Meetings of Berkshire Community Land Trust and the Community Land Trust in the Southern Berkshires. They addressed the topic of how consciously-placed private philanthropy can transform and invigorate a local community and its economy. David Bollier, Reinventing the Commons Program Director at the Schumacher Center for a New Economics, moderated the discussion. He is the author of Think Like a Commoner (2014) and co-author of the forthcoming Free, Fair and Alive: The Insurgent Power of the Commons.
The publication of this video has been made possible with the help of Berkshire Agricultural Ventures.
By leveraging both capital and influence and then convening multiple regional players, Peter Buffett has helped to reshape the Hudson Valley’s economy and make it one of the most talked about communities in the Northeast. Together with his team at the NoVo Foundation, Buffett has assembled a network of farmers, artists, makers, conservationists, government officials, business leaders, activists, health care practitioners, educators, and fellow philanthropists to work towards creating a regenerative economy. As a musician and composer, Buffett often performs around the country to celebrate community engagement and bold, courageous philanthropy.
Peter Taylor is president of the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation, a regional nonprofit organization focused on strengthening communities through philanthropy and leadership. Taylor is also a fellow in the Local Economy Foundation Circle organized by BALLE (Business Alliance for Local Living Economies). Circle participants explore strategies utilized by community and health foundations that are aimed at building resilient local economies. This experience is helping Taylor, in collaboration with community partners and the foundation’s board and staff, identify new opportunities for philanthropy to support economic development. Prior to joining BTCF, Taylor led the development of a $4 million loan program at the Maine Community Foundation for the purpose of supporting town-center development as well as food and agriculture related projects.
The discussion between Peter Buffett and Peter Taylor highlighted the importance of engaged, consciously-placed local philanthropy, including the role of land gifting, in building resilient regional economies.
This event was co-sponsored by: BerkShares, Inc., Berkshire Agricultural Ventures, Berkshire Food Co-op, Berkshire Grown, Berkshire Waldorf High School, Community Development Corporation of South Berkshire, Egremont Land Trust, John Fülöp Associates, Architects & Planners, Great Barrington Agricultural Commission, Greenagers, Good Work Institute, Nonprofit Center of the Berkshires, Schumacher Center for a New Economics, The Nutrition Center, The Watershed Center.
Because there is an ever-widening wealth gap in our economy, the need to expand access to land is urgent. Land access lies at the heart of issues of equity, affordable housing, livable cities, regenerative agriculture, ecological restoration, renewable energy, and social entrepreneurship.
Community land trusts provide a tested vehicle for fair, voluntary, and democratically managed allocation of land. Yet the amount of land in community land trusts throughout the U.S. is not equal to the need. With the market price of land as high as it is, a culture of land gifting is crucial to acquiring sufficient land to lease to those without affordable land access. The community land trust structure ensures that land will remain in a regional Commons rather than returning it to the market and relentless price increases, while at the same time allowing lessees to build equity in improvements on the land.
Ideally, donations of working land to community land trusts will become as common as gifts of ecologically significant lands are to conservation land trusts. Working lands include land for farming, housing, retail, office buildings, educational facilities, manufacturing, and historic preservation – all necessary elements of a sustainable community.