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. As a result, farmers of color make up just 4% of all U.S. farmers.
RAFI-USA founded the Farmers of Color Network in 2017 to support these farmers and grow their numbers. The Network provides farmer-led technical assistance and funding opportunities, and hosts farm tours, networking events, and gatherings to highlight ancestral traditions and knowledge, as well as explore market solutions.
In 2020, the Network responded quickly to the disruptions in the food system from the coronavirus pandemic. We helped farmers who had lost their markets connect with new buyers, including facilitating direct to consumer purchasing and assisting emergency feeding programs that distribute fresh food sourced from farmers of color to people hard hit by the pandemic. The Network also supported farmers in adopting COVID-19 safety protocols and answered many questions.
Farmers of Color Network Infrastructure Fund
After several years of expanding our grant-making to farmers of color, we were proud to announce the first round of grantees from the new Farmers of Color Network Infrastructure Fund in the summer of 2020.
The program provides grants of up to $5,000 to farmers for projects to increase farm viability, support 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. Meet the 2020 grantees here!
Farm projects that the Fund will support include development of a line of value-added salsas, on-farm genetics and breeding research on crops and livestock; purchase of fencing to convert to intensive rotational grazing; refrigeration for expanded on-farm processing; and construction of high tunnels for season extension.
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.
Farmers of Color Network Impact in 2019
—Awarded a total of $209,988 to 24 Network farms over two years
—Assisted 25 farmers directly through robust outreach, application support, and project planning
—Network farmers collectively represent more than 1,030 acres across 10 North Carolina counties
—10 out of 24 FOCN farmers are female and 50% are under age 40
“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.” – Tom and Linda Savage, Black organic farmers, Infrastructure Fund grantees
“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.” – Carolyn Twesten, Merchandiser for Weaver Street Market
“There aren’t often spaces where produce buyers and local farmers of color have the time to interact on such an intimate level. I was able to make connections with farmers that weren’t in my network prior to the event.” – Alex Borst, Happy Dirt (formerly Eastern Carolina Organics)
“What this event impressed upon me is not a need to just create opportunities for black people in food production and food-related businesses, but to shed light on the hands, bodies, and minds who have been living this work … so we are able to find the struggles that persist in inhibiting the forward progression and growth of black farmers. We know the wealth of history that black bodies have contributed to agriculture and food production in our Nation, but what we don’t know or don’t have regular access to is the knowledge and resources of what it takes to connect desperate people today. [Today] dozens of black people spoke up about their needs and challenges as farmers, entrepreneurs, and business owners who have obviously met many walls and dead ends in their pursuit to accessing resources. … It felt like the personification of the old saying ‘you can’t know where you are going, if you don’t know where you have been.” – Raafe-Ahmaad Purnsley, Community Outreach Coordinator, Durham Coop Market
Farmers & Buyers Connect Event
November 6, 2019, 6-8pm
Zweli’s Piri Piri Kitchen, Durham, NC
An evening designed to foster market engagement with farmers of color.
2019 Farm Tour
Farmers of Color Winter Gathering
2018 Farm Tour
September 28, 9am-5pm
Industrial Hemp Gathering
August 21, 2018 in Oxford, NC
More than 35 black farmers/landowners attended an Industrial Hemp Gathering in Oxford, NC in August 2018 to learn about hemp production and markets, rules and regulation and steps in forming hemp cooperatives
Interested in joining the Network?
The @rafiusa Farmers of Color Network aims to develop a network of support & address threats to economic & cultural survival for farmers of color.