According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) most recent census data, white farmers operate 96.5 percent of the nation’s farms, on plots of land that average 424 acres each; on the remaining 3.5 percent of land, Hispanic or Latino and Black farmers maintain plots of land that are, on average, 374 acres and 125 acres respectively. But underserved farmers face more hurdles than unequal access to land and land rights—they often also lack financial resources, trainings, markets, and other resources, helping to perpetuate inequity in agriculture.
To celebrate World Social Justice Day, Food Tank is highlighting organizations changing the face of America’s farmers by bringing resources, tools, and public support to underserved farmers of color, disabled farmers, migrant farmers, and LGBTQ farmers.
The National AgrAbility Project administered by the USDA aims to enhance the quality of life for farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural workers with disabilities. AgrAbility addresses a wide variety of conditions including arthritis, hearing and visual impairments, injuries, and conditions like cerebral palsy. With educational programs, networking, and information sharing, and by providing direct services and individual consultations, AgrAbility aims to equip farmers with the tools they need for success.
2. Black Urban Growers (BUGS)
BUGS maintains a network and community support in order to foster Black leadership in food and farm advocacy. Their programs include the Black Farmers & Urban Gardeners Conference, a national conference started in 2010 that brings together Black farmers, advocates, chefs, and communities to share their best practices and leadership efforts.
3. Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW)
CIW is a worker rights organization that campaigns for fair food and the rights of agriculture workers. CIW has established major agreements on labor standards and wages with McDonald’s, Subway, Sodexo, and Whole Foods through its Fair Food Campaign, focused on tomato pickers in Florida.
4. Cultivating Change Foundation
The Foundation seeks to help LGBTQ farmers feel empowered and valued through advocacy, education, and community support. Through nationwide relationship-building events, partnerships, and discussions, the Foundation seeks to create a global network of LGBTQ agriculturists and their allies. In June, the Foundation will hold a three-day global agriculture conference in Des Moines, IA to bring together agriculture LGTBQ employees, employee resources, diversity professionals, and other experts working toward a more equitable industry.
5. Family Agriculture Resource Management Services (FARMS)
FARMS aims to protect family farmers from abuse and hunger with legal services. Focusing on aging farmers, FARMS provides information—through booklets and through Founder Jillian Hishaw’s book Don’t Bet the Farm on Medicaid (2018)—about maintaining one’s property while still qualifying for Medicaid. The organization also provides various educational and supportive services to aging farmers in the Southern U.S. through grant writing services, retail market opportunities, estate planning, and more.
6. Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC)
FLOC is a labor union that exists as part of the AFL-CIO. Founded in 1967, FLOC was initially organized by Baldemar Velasquez, a migrant worker who sought to improve the working conditions of others like him by creating a mobile organizing base that could move along with workers as the seasons changed. FLOC now operates in both the U.S. and Mexico.
Farms to Grow, Inc. is a nonprofit organization dedicated to working with Black farmers underserved sustainable farmers in the United States. The organization works to promote sustainable farming and innovative agriculture practices which preserve cultural and biological diversity, as well as the agroecological balance of the local environment.
Farmworker Justice is a non-profit organization that aims to help migrant and seasonal farmworkers improve their working conditions, health, and safety. Founded in 1981, the organization addresses nation-wide migrant farmworker communities, advocating for them on Capitol Hill, in courts, in administrative agencies, and in the public eye alongside other farmworkers and farmworker organizations.
9. Food Chain Workers Alliance
The Food Chain Workers Alliance is a coalition of worker organizations whose members plant, harvest, process, pack, transport, prepare, serve, and sell food. The organization works to improve wages and working conditions for all workers along the food chain. And the “Alliance works together to build a more sustainable food system that respects workers’ rights, based on the principles of social, environmental, and racial justice, in which everyone has access to healthy and affordable food.”
HEAL collects the power of organization across the U.S. to create food and agricultural systems that are healthy, fair, and accessible for all communities—including the communities of people who grow our food. With current programs equipping food and farm justice leaders with political skills and exposing the school food industry, HEAL advocates for a food system in which communities have the right and means to access food that is nutritious and culturally appropriate. While HEAL includes 50 member organizations today, the alliance was formed in 2015 by the Union of Concerned Scientists, Food Chain Workers Alliance, Real Food Challenge, and the National Black Food and Justice Alliance.
11. Life Essentials
Life Essentials develops the technology and equipment to help farmers with disabilities regain independence in the fields. With agricultural mobility equipment including lawn mower lifts, tractor lifts, and other customized equipment, the company works with government agencies and programs such as AgrAbility to get assistive machinery to the communities that need it most in a financially feasible way.
12. National Black Farmers Association (NBFA)
The NBFA uses outreach, technical assistance, and nationwide advocacy to help socially disadvantaged farmers with limited access to resources. The organization also provides trainings and workshops to help Black farmers fight against hunger, prevent land loss, and secure food sovereignty. Their Let’s Get Growing Campaign links experienced and new farmers to help create a world in which farming is not only a viable career, but also a way to preserve ancestral lands, heritage, and lifestyles.
13. Soul Fire Farm
Soul Fire Farm grows food as an act of solidarity with those oppressed by food apartheid, while maintaining respect for their ancestors, history, and the environment. Soul Fire Farm conducts training programs to raise the next generation of activist-farmers and support food sovereignty for future communities. The organization’s Co-Director Leah Penniman recently completed a book, “Farming While Black,” a guide for African-heritage growers to reclaim their dignity.
14. Southeastern African American Farmers’ Organic Network (SAAFON)
SAAFON’s mission is to ensure that Black farmers prosper by spreading their organic and sustainable farm practices; promoting links between Black farming, culture, and history; and by advocating for Black sustainable farming values. SAAFON aims to raise the visibility of the farmers within the network and their values, providing clean produce to their communities and protecting ancestral land for future generations.