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FOCN 2023 Infrastructure Grantees

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:  Beth Hauptle, Communications Manager, [email protected], 919.903.2525

[Pittsboro, NC, June 16, 2023] – Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA (RAFI-USA) has announced the recipients of its Farmers of Color Network Infrastructure Fund grants. The grant program, now in its fourth year, provides grants of up to $10,000 for farm infrastructure, processing and refrigeration, and other durable farm assets. In 2023, the fund awarded $107,236 to 11 grantees across six states. Over the four years of this particular grant program, $722,535 has been awarded to farmers in 12 states in the Southeast U.S. 

RAFI-USA’s Infrastructure Grant program sits alongside two new granting programs: Grants to farmers in the U.S. Caribbean territories and Beginning Farmers of Color. The recipients of these grants will be announced soon. 

This round of infrastructure grants is supported in part by the Capital One Foundation in partnership with Capital One. In support of its mission to change banking for good, Capital One launched the Impact Initiative to advance socioeconomic mobility by advocating for an inclusive society, building thriving communities, and creating financial tools that enrich lives. It is fueled by an initial $200 million multi-year commitment in community grants to catalyze economic growth in low- and moderate-income communities and close gaps in equity and opportunity.

“It’s gratifying to be able to offer this grant program for the fourth straight year,” remarked RAFI-USA Executive Director Edna Rodriguez. “We are especially thankful that our new funder, Capital One Foundation, stepped up in such a generous way to help us support BIPOC farmers who for so long have been underrepresented and underfunded. We look forward to bringing these new Farmers of Color Network members into the fold and continuing to work alongside them to help strengthen their operations and future legacy,” Rodriguez continued. 

Ray Jeffers, Director of the Farmers of Color Network at RAFI-USA also expressed his appreciation for Capital One’s funding, as well as funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation for FOCN’s core programming, and added, “While we are pleased to be able to offer 11 new farmers Infrastructure Grants this year, there were many more viable projects we simply did not have the funding to support this year. We are constantly seeking new funders who understand the significance of supporting farmers of color.”

RAFI-USA’s Farmers of Color Network Infrastructure Fund provides support to farmers for new and innovative agricultural projects that will increase farm viability, support community food sovereignty efforts, preserve traditional and cultural farming practices, as well as assist local food economies. Grant applications were reviewed by a team of farmers and farm advocates from partner organizations. Grantees were selected based on the strength of their project, the impact the project will have on the farm and on their community.  Of the 11 grantees this year, 8 are Black, 1 Indigenous, 1 Latinx, and 1 Asian. 36% of grants were awarded to women-led farms. 

Other farm projects supported by the 2023 Farmers of Color Network Infrastructure Fund include projects to build walk-in coolers and washing and processing facilities, expand pastured swine production, purchase a pea sheller, create an on-farm market, and construct a community commercial kitchen. See grantee profiles on the RAFI-USA website and learn more about the Farmers of Color Network.

REPRESENTATIVE GRANTEES

One grantee is Wendell Williams Farm, in Two Egg, Florida, just 65 miles west of Tallahassee. The farm has been in operation since the late 1800s.  Wendell Williams — a third-generation farmer — continues this legacy as he farms cotton, corn, peas, hay, and peanuts along with raising cattle and other livestock. His farm’s grant funds will be used to purchase a barn (previous structures suffered damage during 2018’s Hurricane Michael) which will serve the dual purpose of storing farm equipment and providing designated space to host a mini farmers’ market for the community. Williams Farms’ “Neighbor Helping Neighbor” program will follow a unique model whereby local farmers both large and small will make food contributions to the farmer’s market (attached to the barn structure) and community members will have the opportunity to get items that are available. Visitors to the farmer’s market will be able to offer up items to trade or barter.

Another recipient of a FOCN Infrastructure grant is Chue Lee of Lee’s One Fortune Farm in Western North Carolina. Lee’s One Fortune Farm is a group of relatives from the Hmong community who follow the traditional practice of cooperatively growing food to feed their families. The eight farmers are all growers of fruits and vegetables, and six of the farmers also plant heirloom rice at a four-acre, natural wetland site. They meticulously hand-select and save the seed each season. Lee’s One Fortune Farm covers more than 90 acres and features just under 1,000 fruit trees, including specialty Japanese “blood red” plum trees, seven varieties of Asian pear, eight plum varieties, seven peach varieties, two persimmons, and four different types of nectarine. The farm produces a vast array of Asian vegetables and more. While first provisioning the extended family, the Farm sells surplus to restaurants and farmers markets and is a well-loved local vendor. With the FOCN grant, Lee plans to construct a much-needed new building for washing and processing produce.

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