December 7, 2020
Since 2008, investors have developed a growing interest in acquiring farmland. This trend demands critical scrutiny, particularly given the centrality of land to food systems, farmer livelihoods, and cultural identities. In this talk, I will present several key findings from my recently published book, which draws from historical and qualitative research to examine the emergence and maturation of the global farmland investment industry over the course of the past decade. Today’s farmland investors, I argue, view farmland primarily as a source of financial returns, and industry actors are working diligently to transform it into a new financial asset class. This transformation, however, is constrained by the unique material and social properties of farmland, which have historically limited its full commodification and continue to present difficulties for its “financialization.” In response to these constraints, the industry is deploying new metrics, narratives, and investment vehicles that aim to make farmland legible and accessible to mainstream investors. I chart these asset-making efforts, as well as some of the unintended consequences they may give rise to.
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