Mitigating Racial Land Loss through Local Partnerships

Throughout history, the importance of land has been linked to other aspects of individual and collective health, stability, and wealth. Accordingly, the creation of the United States is a story about land: Indigenous people whose land was gradually and violently taken away from them by an increasingly demanding colonial-settler population through coercion and killing; Africans who were forcefully removed from their own home lands and enslaved to produce on another’s; European colonialists who, through force, took land for themselves and people to work that land for them.

Although the rates of explicit and overt shows-of-force have diminished, the ways in which Indigenous, Black, Asian, Latinx, and people of color throughout the U.S. have been robbed of their land and all of the advantages that come with it, have not. These consistent discriminatory acts of theft have led to contemporary deficits in not only land possession, but related metrics of individual and collective health, like food security and home ownership.

Farmers of color in the United States continue to endure systemic racism within the food system that causes significant and consistent social, economic, and political harm. Farmers of color often have less access to markets, fewer beneficial relationships, and fewer financial resources and opportunities. This all results in higher rates of debt, lower agricultural land ownership rates, and fewer farmers of color who are able to keep their farms.

For example, in 1910, 218,000 Black farmers were registered as full or part owners of 15 million acres of land. By 2007, 28,000 Black farmers were full or part owners of 2.9 million acres of land. Census data shows the average NC farmer runs a 168 acre farm whose market value exceeds $250,000 per year. For African Americans, the average is 95 acres and $73,000 and for women the average is 79 acres and $105,000.

In response, RAFI launched the Farm and Faith Partnerships Project (FFPP) in 2021. The goal of the Farm and Faith Partnerships Project is to work against injustices in the food system that harm farmers of color and rural communities by creating mutually-beneficial and self-sustaining economic partnerships between farmers of color and surrounding faith communities.

What started with a handful of churches and a couple of farmers in Wake County, North Carolina coming together to form a food box purchasing group has now spread to include eight CSA projects made up of 20 congregations and more than 10 farmers. Having grossed over $300,000 in sales combined since 2021, these partnerships are aimed at creating additional sources of income and increasing market access for farmers of color, with faith community members, and other community members, increasing their access to fresh, healthy foods. Through these relationships, congregations are able to participate in the building of thriving local food systems and economies while also engaging in relational ministries with farmers in their communities.

If you’re part of a congregation that’s interested in strengthening your local food system, creating a new access point for fresh produce in your community, and desiring to work alongside a local farmer in taking a step towards addressing centuries of racial injustice, this is a great opportunity for you.

In addition to providing digital resources to help your faith community learn more about the depth of racial land loss in the U.S. and how your faith community can create a partnership with a local farmer, the Come to the Table team would love to help you and your congregation navigate the best way forward in partnering with a local farmer. For more information, please contact Angel Woodrum ([email protected]) or Jarred White ([email protected]).

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