On November 2, the Come to the Table (CTTT) program hosted a peer-learning event for 2020-2021 mini-grant recipients. The event focused on the logistics and purpose behind faith communities creating and sustaining partnerships with local farmers of color. In these partnerships, faith communities have a unique opportunity to support local food systems while also providing community members with access to fresh, local food.
At the virtual event, Farm and Faith Partnerships Project (FFPP) Manager Jarred White led participants in a conversation around their food ministries’ buying decisions. Participants examined common priorities for these decisions — price, convenience, proximity, client preference, etc. — and discussed how and where values like equity, sustainability, and justice should be included in this discussion.
With this conversation in mind, Jarred shared a list of reasons why buying from a local farmer is a great avenue for churches. Factors like environmental sustainability, local economic contribution, food chain resilience, support for independent growers, and the pursuit of equity were discussed. Participants also addressed potential concerns about partnering with a farmer.
To help participants better understand and experience the process of preparing to buy directly from a farmer, CTTT Program Coordinator David Allen led participants through a conversation designed for churches interested in buying products from local farmers. Narrating through a list of questions for faith communities to consider about their own context before contacting a farmer about partnering together, David and a participant modeled the process of consideration that faith communities should consider when purchasing from a farmer.
Participants were also able to hear directly from a farmer during a question-and-answer session. Clarence DuBois of Gabor Farms, a veteran-owned and operated farm in Richmond County, NC shared his experiences working with churches. He described some challenges new buyers often have with underbuying or overbuying produce and revealed what makes a partnership between farmers and churches successful. For Clarence, clear and frequent communication is crucial. When partners are upfront about their needs and concerns, it makes it easier to plan accordingly. When asked to give advice for churches that are looking to buy from a local farmer but don’t know where to start, Clarence answered, “Farmers markets are a great place to meet your farmer … it’s easier to start a conversation face to face … you feel like you already know them.”
If your faith community is interested in partnering with a farmer, you can begin by reviewing a list of questions like the participants of this event. These questions can be found at the end of our guidebook, RAFI-USA’s “Food, Faith, and Farmers of Color: A Guide for Community Collaboration. (Follow the Guidebook’s link to download a free copy.) To view a recording of this event, please contact David Allen at [email protected], and for more information about partnering with a farmer, please contact Jarred White at [email protected].