SALEM — Madeleine Fairbairn, a University of California-Santa Cruz professor and author of the 2020 book, “Fields of Gold: Financing the Global Land Rush,” recalls attending a conference in a “stately hotel” with men in suits at tables shrouded in white tablecloths under a crystal chandelier discussing investment opportunities.

“The subject being discussed among all this finery was not the future of international banking or the latest in high-frequency trading,” writes Fairbairn. “It was farming. These well-heeled men were in the market for dirt.”

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