[Pittsboro, NC, June 29, 2021] – On July 13 at 5:30-7:30 p.m., the Farmers of Color Network (FOCN), a program of the Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA (RAFI-USA), will host its second Farmers & Buyers Connect event at Piney Wood Park in Durham, NC (400 East Woodcroft Parkway). The event gives farmers of color, churches, farmers markets, and retail and wholesale buyers in the Piedmont region of the state an opportunity to build relationships that broaden the visibility and strengthen market access for farmers of color throughout the state. Please RSVP in advance (https://bit.ly/FarmersBuyersRegister).
During this event, farmers and buyers will have the opportunity to engage in discussion with each other regarding challenges, opportunities, and resources needed for successful collaborations. Buyers will share best practices for producers to position their farm operations for wholesale readiness and get their products into restaurants and retail establishments, while farmers will be able to share some of their experiences working with buyers and also strategies for both new and seasoned farmers.
At the most recent event hosted in November 2019, approximately 15 local food buyers attended, including the Carrboro Farmers Market, Clirty Eats, Durham Co-op Market, Happy Dirt (formerly Eastern Carolina Organics), Farmer Foodshare, Firsthand Foods, FreshPoint, Piri Durham, Symbodied, Vimala’s Curryblossom Café, and Weaver Street Market. More than 40 farmers participated, representing vegetable, microgreen, herb and apothecary, honey, fish, poultry, pork, beef, goat, and dairy operations.
Last year, Carolyn Twesten, Merchandiser for Weaver Street Market, commented that “it was great to be in a room full of farmers of color and to have an event that focused on connecting local farmers of color with local buyers. The Triangle has so much more potential to support all local farms than what is currently being actualized.”
Farmers of color in the U.S. have long been disadvantaged by systemic and institutional racism, including discrimination in accessing credit, loans, resources, and markets. In response, RAFI- USA launched the Farmers of Color Network project in 2017 to develop a holistic economic and cultural ecosystem that values farmers of color in regional food systems. The program provides farmer-led technical assistance and funding for farmers of color, and hosts farm tours, networking events, and gatherings to highlight ancestral traditions and knowledge, as well as explore market solutions.
“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.
“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.”
Additional Farmers & Buyers Connect events are planned across the Southeast to connect farmers of color with chefs, food entrepreneurs, retail and wholesale buyers. Learn more about the Farmers of Color Network: rafiusa.org/farmersofcolornetwork