The Gardener’s Guide

International Precursors

Image by Bonnie Acker

Unconventional ideas and intentional communities native to the United States did as much to seed and to shape the modern CLT as ideas imported from abroad.  Even before there was a United States, Native Americans believed that land was a resource that was given by God to all, not “property” to bought and sold.  This was a view shared by many of the new republic’s greatest thinkers and leaders.

Domestic Pioneers

NATIVE VARIETIES: Image by Bonnie Acker (c) 2014

Unconventional ideas and intentional communities native to the United States did as much to seed and to shape the modern CLT as ideas imported from abroad.  Even before there was a United States, Native Americans believed that land was a resource that was given by God to all, not “property” to bought and sold.  This was a view shared by many of the new republic’s greatest thinkers and leaders.

Seeding the First CLTs

EARLY HYBRIDS: Image by Bonnie Acker (c) 2014

In 1972, when Bob Swann, Shimon Gottschalk, Erick Hansch, and Ted Webster published The Community Land Trust: A Guide to a New Model for Land Tenure in America, they candidly described the CLT as “a somewhat hypothetical model which as of this writing exists only in the form of various prototypes.” This remained a fair characterization of nearly all the organizations that appeared in the 1970s and in the early years of the 1980s calling themselves a “community land trust.”

From Model to Movement

MANY GARDENS: Image by Bonnie Acker (c) 2014

The number, dispersion, and diversity of CLTs began to grow after 1985. Before that time, there were maybe a dozen organizations in the United States that could fairly be called a “community land trust.” By 2010, there were over 200 CLTs, located in 46 different states. They had spread to other countries as well, with CLTs springing up in England, Australia, Canada, and Belgium.

Propagating the CLT Abroad

WIND-BORNE SEEDS: Image by Bonnie Acker (c) 2014

American pioneers of the community land trust “stole” some of their best ideas from the Garden Cities in England, the Gramdan villages in India, and the moshav settlements in Israel. It seems only fair, therefore, for CLT pioneers in other countries to be “stealing” ideas from CLT practitioners in the United States, adding organizational and operational innovations of their own, and planting these new varieties in their native soil.


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