The earth has a language all its own. It speaks in elemental increments of physical matter as it absorbs air and light. The animal world is attuned to this language and shares the surface of the earth as part of its regenerative cycles. Then there is the human being and evolving human consciousness.
The story of Yggdrasil, from which Yggdrasil Land Foundation drew its name, is part of the Norse myths called the Poetic Eddas. Yggdrasil is the world ash tree whose roots reach down to the center of the earth while its branches reach up into the heavens. Humans live in the middle world, on the land, while all sorts of characters both godly and mischievous are at work in the higher and lower worlds. This imagination is at the heart of Yggdrasil Land Foundation’s purpose: to protect sustainable and biodynamic farmland, create land access for farmers, and cultivate agriculture-based regional economies.
As a part of the small but growing agricultural land trust movement in the United States, Yggdrasil currently owns land and manages conservation easements in three regions of the United States: Southeastern Wisconsin, Southern New Hampshire, and Northern California. As of 2015, Yggdrasil owns 16 properties and two agricultural easements for a total 1200 protected acres—protected in perpetuity for farmers and farming.
Yggdrasil has an unusual corporate structure, which is both visionary and challenging. First, the whole idea and practice of such an agricultural land trust was brought by Christopher and Martina Mann with them when they moved to East Troy, Wisconsin. They had established such entities in Germany and then again in England before their emigration to the US. While they served on the board during Yggdrasil’s formative stages, Martina supports Yggdrasil’s work from across the threshold, while Christopher continues to support with his vision and sense of what is possible. Without their initial gifts of two farmland properties, Yggdrasil would simply not exist.
Yggdrasil incorporated in 2000 as a non-profit in California and filed for federal tax-exempt status as a supporting organization to RSF Social Finance, the Biodynamic Association, and Michael Fields Agricultural Institute. This meant that the three separate boards of trustees had to sign off on Yggdrasil’s creation based on understanding how Yggdrasil could support their respective charitable purposes. In addition, the three supported entities are responsible for appointing the majority of the directors of Yggdrasil. The vision behind this structure, and what has actually happened over the last 16 years, is that the three supported organizations see the opportunities for true collaborative activities with Yggdrasil, even while Yggdrasil carries on its independent work as a non-controlled entity.