On July 13, RAFI-USA hosted a Farmer & Buyer Connect event at Piney Wood Park in Durham, NC which gathered together 24 farmers who are members of RAFI-USA’s Farmers of Color Network (FOCN) and 31 buyers from the Piedmont area of NC. The event was RAFI-USA’s first in-person gathering in nearly two years, and everyone on hand seemed grateful for the opportunity to break bread together and initiate relationships that could be beneficial for all involved.
This type of event is designed to give farmers of color, churches, farmers markets, and retail and wholesale buyers an opportunity to build relationships that broaden the visibility and strengthen market access for farmers of color throughout the state.
“The work of the Farmers of Color Network is informed and guided by farmers. We do our best to honor and uplift farmer knowledge as we approach learning spaces, events, and organizing efforts,” said Tahz Walker, senior program director for FOCN. “Right now, we are focused on growing the network and supporting farmers by facilitating market engagement, peer learning opportunities, and supporting farm infrastructure needs. We are especially excited about connecting farmers of color with chefs and food entrepreneurs of color.”
“If nothing else, this past year has taught us how absolutely vital small-scale farms — and particularly farmers of color — are to the resilience of food supply systems and to community food access in the face of disaster. To strengthen these farms’ infrastructure and market access is a key to the economic, social, and physical well-being of communities and the Southeast region. We could not be more excited to facilitate these important connections,” said Laketa Smith, a Program Manager for the Farmers of Color Network.
Some of the buyers include Durham and South Durham farmers markets, Durham Co-op, Happy Dirt, Fresh Point, Black Farmers Market, Deep Roots Market, and several churches, among them the Butner Community Food Pantry housed at Community United Methodist Church and Durham First Presbyterian Church. Some farmers in attendance include Thomas and Linda Savage, Millard Locklear, Kent Williamson, and Wendi Woods. William Landis from N.C. State Extension, Small Farms division was also in attendance.