Listening Project Questions

Dear interviewee/farmer/writer,

These are a series of guiding questions to use for conducting interviews or submitting written work to this listening project about land.  Think about which questions feel relevant to you, and feel free to posit more questions if you don’t see a topic here you’d like to speak to.  I’d like this project to be interviewee led, so I’d love feedback and critique about the questions themselves if you have any.  Also, you might feel moved to write about one issue, but interview about a completely different one—if you have ideas, I’d like to accommodate them.  Remember that all interviews and submissions can remain anonymous to whatever degree you want or need them to be. Thanks for your participation—what you have to say is important to me.

Thanks so much,

Sonia

 

Questions about yourself and your relationship to land and farming:

Where did you grow up?  If you grew up in Maine, can you speak to the changes you’ve seen in your community or hometown over the years? If you’re from another state, or another country, what inspired you to come to Maine?

Could you talk about your class background? (poor, working class, middle class, owning class, etc)  What is your cultural and/or ethnic background?

What is your definition of a farmer?  Do you see a difference between being a farmer and being a homesteader? How about the differences between being a farm hand or a migrant worker? Farming for subsistence or farming as a job?

Why is farming is important to you? What are your logistical, spiritual, economic and ideological motivations?

What do you do for paid work?

Describe your past farming experience, as an apprentice, farm laborer, market farmer, homesteader, subsistence farmer, etc: (add what farm projects would you like to be working on but aren’t/can’t)

How long have you been looking for land stability?  What would land security look like for you?

Which of the following arrangements have you considered engaging in: owner finance, short term lease, long term lease, work to own, partnership, collective living, land trusts, farm management, work trade, squatting/occupation, etc.

Describe your experience with non-traditional land arrangements as a tenant farmer—work trade, alternative leases, handshake agreements, collective ventures—with examples of both positive and negative experiences if you can.

How often have you had to move in last five years due to lack of land stability or a safe place to call home?

Is buying land an option for you? Why or why not?

Are you looking for alternatives to a standard sale because you are unable to qualify for a mortgage, or because you have ideological concerns with the current economic method for land distribution?

Are you willing to put time and energy into repairing housing or outbuildings on land you don’t own?  How has being landless affected your decisions around infrastructure investment and repair?

How has a lack of a solid land base/home impacted your farming methods and ethics?

What do you need in order to feel good about sharing and caring for land that you do not own?

Are you committed to rural or urban areas? Why?

What kinds of skills are you unable to learn or engage in because of a lack of land/home security?

What kind of equipment/tools/infrastructure are you unable to access because you don’t have land/a home?

What assets and skills do you think are necessary to achieve land security?

What do see as the largest barriers for you to finding the land stability you need?

 

Questions specifically about rural gentrification for long term Maine residents:

How long have you lived in your town/county/state?

How is land being used differently now than when you were growing up in your area?  Is there more or less land in agricultural use?

How have your neighbors changed?  Where do they come from? Do you see more people from out of your area moving in, and if so, how are the new people different from the ones who have left?

Do you still live near your extended family? Your children and grandchildren?  If not, where have they gone and why?

What kind of new buildings/development have you seen in your area over the last five/ten/twenty years?

How have your town centers changed in the time you’ve lived here?  Do you have to go farther for goods and services or are goods and services nearer to your home?

How does road traffic look different now than it did years ago?  Is there more or less? Is that different depending on the time of year?

How has access to jobs changed?  Is it more or less challenging to find work in your area than it was in years past?  How have the kinds of work available changed?

How do you feel about local food, organic certification, and “back to the land” movements?  Do you feel they have had a positive or a negative effect on your area?

What are the benefits and disadvantages of the changes you’ve seen?  How do you feel about those changes?

 

For Organizations:

Describe what your organization’s focus is and the main body of work that you do within it.

What is your organizations’ relationship to land access, farming, and/or homelessness?

What kind of clientele come to your organization looking for help or resources? Do you feel like your organization can meet their needs? Why or why not?

How much input does your local community and/or clientele have on organizational decisions, direction, and mission statements?

Is your goal to preserve land from development and/or to shift land into agricultural use? Both?

Does your organization assist clientele with alternatives to standard sales?  If so, describe those alternatives. If not, describe what kind of standard sales you assist with.

Does your group partner with organizations that help assist clientele with land and/or home security?

Does the organization’s need for funding come into conflict with its mission?

Would your organization be able to support a group that advocated occupation/squatting as a solution for landlessness/homelessness?

Do you feel like your organization has been successful in both preserving land and in helping people? Why or why not?

 

For everyone:

It’s my opinion that tenants need to have equity, land security and the ability to pass on land to their family members in order to feel secure or invested in being on a piece of land or a home base. What do you think people need to feel secure enough to invest in land? What are your opinions on how to make that happen in the absence of the possibility of a standard land sale?

 

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