RAFI-USA Grants $130,500 to Support Members of its Farmers of Color Network

Stipends and grants will support farm viability projects on nearly 30 farms in three states


Beth Hauptle
Communications Manager
919.903.2525, [email protected]

[Pittsboro, NC, Wednesday, July 29, 2020] – Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA (RAFI-USA) today announced the first-ever round of grants from its new Farmers of Color Network Infrastructure Fund. The program provides grants of up to $5,000 to farmers for projects to increase farm viability, support farmers’ local food economies, and preserve traditional farming practices. A total of $131,500 was granted to 27 farmers in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia. This project is funded in part by a three-year grant of $675,000 to support the Farmers of Color Network from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, as well as The Fund to Build Grassroots Power at Windward Fund, the 11th Hour Project, and the Seeds, Soul and Culture Fund/New Field Foundation.

RAFI-USA Executive Director Edna Rodriguez said, “We are proud to support farmers of color around the South in building their assets and growing their businesses. Black farmers and other farmers of color have long been subject to discrimination, whether by local bankers and landowners or the U.S. Department of Agriculture. As a result, farmers of color make up just 4% of all farmers. The Farmers of Color Network seeks to grow that number by investing in the creativity and innovation of traditionally underserved farmer communities.”

RAFI-USA launched the Farmers of Color Network in 2017 to assist farmers in accessing farm infrastructure resources, securing land and other assets, supporting farmer-to-farmer learning, and providing technical support. The new Infrastructure Fund builds on the success of previous RAFI-USA regranting programs and will focus exclusively on farmers of color in several Southern states. Twenty-one of this year’s grantee farms are in North Carolina and three each are in South Carolina and Virginia. Of the grantees, 66% are Black, 11% Indigenous, 11% Latinx, 8% Gullah-Geechee, and 4% Asian. One-quarter are women. The Fund will open applications for its next round of grantmaking in Spring 2021.

Tom and Linda Savage, Black organic farmers in North Carolina, were awarded a grant to install effective pest protection. Tom Savage said, “We provide good nutritious food to our community. With the added pest protection we can build with this grant funding, we plan to more than double our current production next season. Our customers are continually asking for more, and now we will be able to meet their demand. We are excited about our growth potential.”

Stephanie Vinat, a Latina farmer in North Carolina, was awarded funding to launch a line of value-added sauces, salsas, and spice blends from her farm. Vinat said, “Food plays an important role in cultural diversity and resilience. Offering shelf-stable value-added products will allow us to diversify our market potential and give us an opportunity to scale our business. The prominent Latin sauces and salsas available at local grocery stores are packed with unnatural ingredients and preservatives, while the Latin American community suffers from increasingly high rates of diabetes. We hope to fight this food injustice with our all-natural products and build relationships with other local farmers to grow produce for our sauces and spices.”

Other farm projects supported by the 2020 Farmers of Color Network and the Infrastructure Fund include on-farm genetics and breeding research on crops and livestock; conversion of existing infrastructure into new uses; purchase of fencing to convert to intensive rotational grazing; refrigeration for expanded on-farm processing; and construction of high tunnels for season extension. 

The mission of Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA (RAFI-USA) is to cultivate markets, policies, and communities that sustain thriving, socially just, and environmentally sound family farms. RAFI-USA works nationally and internationally, focusing on North Carolina and the southeastern United States. RAFI-USA is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in Pittsboro, North Carolina, and incorporated in 1990.

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), founded in 1930 as an independent, private foundation by breakfast cereal innovator and entrepreneur Will Keith Kellogg, is among the largest philanthropic foundations in the United States. Guided by the belief that all children should have an equal opportunity to thrive, WKKF works with communities to create conditions for vulnerable children so they can realize their full potential in school, work, and life.

The Kellogg Foundation is based in Battle Creek, Michigan, and works throughout the United States and internationally, as well as with sovereign tribes. Special attention is paid to priority places where there are high concentrations of poverty and where children face significant barriers to success. WKKF priority places in the U.S. are in Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico, and New Orleans; and internationally, are in Mexico and Haiti. For more information, visit www.wkkf.org.

The 11th Hour Project is the grant-making arm of The Schmidt Family Foundation, founded by Eric and Wendy Schmidt in 2006, which supports organizations and solutions that build resilient energy and food systems and protect human rights.  For more information, visit  www.11thhourproject.org.

Food, Land & Sacred Stories - RAFI's 2024 Come to the Table ConferenceRegister Now!