Progress report for ENE21-167
120 Maine service providers and 7 agricultural organizations will use the skills they learn in diversity, equity, and inclusion training to better understand biases, barriers, and the specific needs of farmers and food producers from diverse backgrounds, and in so doing they will be able to provide more inclusive, accessible, relevant, and user-friendly services to 600 farmers.
Problem and Justification:
Here in Maine there has been an 8% decrease in the number of white farmers and a loss of 573 farms since 2012; in the same timeframe farmers identifying as Black or African American have increased by 76%. Add to that, farmers identifying as Black, Indigenous, People of Color, immigrant LGBT, or disabled currently represent 3,500+ farms scattered throughout the state. Yet, many of these burgeoning populations of farmers are marginalized in Maine, one of the whitest states in the nation, due to systemic racism coupled by a lack of understanding of their unique histories, experiences, and needs for tailored support from our agricultural service providing organizations and institutions.
Partner organizations who work with disadvantaged farmers describe how a lack of inclusiveness and accessibility to tailored assistance and education directly relate to a farmer’s inability to secure financial capital for operations, equipment and infrastructure needed to sustain and grow business, gain technical knowledge to increase productivity, and comply with regulations. They report that farmers are asking for service providers who can relate to their particular needs; service providers, in turn, are eager to make their practices more relevant, more user-friendly, and more available.
Solution and Approach:
We believe that the future of farming in Maine, if not the entire Northeast, is going to be much more diverse than it has been, and service providers trained in issues of social and racial justice, cultural competency, and diversity skills will be better prepared to equitably support this trend, grow the beginning farmer population, and create a more just and sustainable agricultural system.
This project will provide direct training focused on diversity, equity and inclusion for 120-185 service providers in Maine and internal facilitation for 7 participating organizations. The six trainings are designed to enable providers to understand biases, barriers, and acquire knowledge and skills to provide equitable programs/services to thousands of farmers from diverse populations. The internal facilitation for 7 organizations’ staff and board members will involve a foundational concepts training that guides organizations in how to center equity for all farmers when shaping policy, designing programs, and directly connecting with farmers. Leaders, decision makers, and service providers will increase their cultural competence and be able to help break down barriers to success for marginalized farmers in Maine. Organizations will develop road maps for further learning and action that acknowledges that racism and general discrimination are systemic and that organizations must commit to diversity, equity, and inclusion work for lasting and continued change.
This programming will have a large impact across Maine as the trained service providers collectively work with thousands of farm operators, who in turn employ diverse populations of farmworkers.
Over the requested three-year project timeline, we will coordinate two simultaneous approaches to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion professional development: (1). Comprehensive training for service providers and (2). Internal organization facilitation.
1.Training for service providers: There will be 6 trainings offered to 120-185 service providers. A training on LGBTQ+ competency by Equality ME and 2 trainings on land justice and decolonization by Maine-Wabanaki REACH will be offered in April, June and August 2021. A July assessment of the BFRN’s racial equity and inclusion training needs will inform the topics of 3 subsequent workshops conducted by Cross Cultural Community Services in November 2021, and January and March 2022.
Through the project, agricultural service providers will gain awareness and skills in the following areas:
- Understanding and utilizing a racial justice lens through which to analyze farmers’ problems, seek solutions, and define success
- Understanding historical and current patterns of colonization and land justice, and parlaying this into helping marginalized communities access land
- Demonstrating cultural competence in supporting BIPOC, low income, LGBTQ+, immigrants, and people of intersectionality identities
- Acknowledging past and current barriers to the success of under-resourced farming communities as well as the impact of existing inequities
- Practicing more tailored/effective approaches to technical assistance and the myriad of other support services that service providers offer
- Learning how to have courageous conversations about race and how one transitions to become anti racist
- Exploring how organizations can work more cohesively and collaboratively with black, indigenous, and immigrant farmers
- Acknowledging privilege, bias, oppression and systemic racism
The quantifiable actions that 120-185 service providers will take using their new knowledge, awareness, skills, and attitudes to teach, advise, and/or assist farmers are as follows:
- Adopting new techniques and using a structural analysis of equity in their work, across all social identities
- Delivering direct support that is more relevant, relatable, respectful, and inclusive to farmers of all identities
- Fostering authentic, long lasting relationships with under-resourced and under-connected front line communities
- Quantifying the ripple effect of collectively working with thousands of farm operators, who in turn employ diverse populations of farmworkers.
2.Internal organization facilitation: Professional consultants will guide employees and boards through a process of assessing and exploring their goals around equity. A foundational concepts training will guide organizations in how to include equity considerations for all farmers when shaping policy, designing programs, and directly connecting with farmers. Leaders, decision makers, and service providers will increase their cultural competence and be able to help break down barriers to success for marginalized farmers in Maine.
Through this project, 315 agricultural organization staff and Board will gain awareness and skills in the following areas:
- Acknowledging privilege, bias, oppression and systemic racism
- Addressing past harms, and implementing an equity lens to all programming
- Using a structural analysis of equity tool in their work across all social identities
The quantifiable actions that participating organizations and staff members will take using their new knowledge, awareness, skills, and attitudes are as follows:
- 7 organizations will develop equity statements
- 5 organizations will increase the number of program scholarships provided to a more diverse farmer population
- 7 organizations will revise their support programs to reflect the diverse needs of all farmers and farmworkers.
- 7 organizations will develop a road map for continued learning and actionable steps to make their organizations more equitable
As the host organization to this project, MOFGA will provide the following:
- Coordination of consulting for 7 partner organizations
- Work with trainers to develop larger cross organization trainings
- Maintain periodic check ins with all partner organizations
- Maintain continuous contact with accountability partners and receive feedback from farmers of marginalized communities
- Measure and track outcomes in awareness, knowledge, skills, attitudes of providers, and experiences of the farmers they serve
- Develop a publication of best practices and program adaptations sourced from participating organizations and service providers for replication by other Northeast service organizations.
7 anti-racism and equity organized trainings were provided this year in May, June, July, September, and October (3-part) to Maine service providers through Beginning Farmer Resource Network of Maine (BFRN) as well as the newly formed Farm and Rancher Stress Assistance Network in the Northeast. From this direct invitation recruitment strategy, as well as encouraging these recipients to share the training registration information with co-workers and other agricultural organizations they collaborate within Maine, 190 people participated in the trainings.
MOFGA invited the Maine Farmer Resource Network to participate in this project through an announcement at our quarterly network meeting and follow up emails.
Seven organizations accepted the invitation to participate in facilitated DEI training with an equity consultant. Matches between organizations and equity consultants have been made and formalized with contracts. The 5 nonprofit organizations have begun engagement with their consultants. It took longer to find a good fit for the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry and the University of Maine Cooperative Extension because of the size of those institutions. The number of people impacted by these relationships is 185, which includes the majority of staff and board at each non profit organization (5) and a steering committee at the larger agricultural institutions (2).
Prior to all training offered through this grant, a pre-training assessment of BFRN was conducted the project manager. The assessment showed us, among other demographics, the following about the service providers reached during this grant: 1) they are 99% white and largely heterosexual; 2) they do not identify with having a disability; 3) they have achieved a high level of education; 4) 70% see a need for diversity, equity, and inclusion training in their workplace. Participants in the assessment expressed that their organizations need to improve supporting specifically Black, Indigenous, people of color, immigrants and refugees and LGBTQ+ communities. Only 21% of MFRN service providers had attended anti-racism and cultural competency training before. While 70% felt comfortable talking about their own privilege, only 58% felt comfortable talking about privilege and bias with co-workers and 21% felt comfortable talking about issues of social justice with farmers.
As noted in last year's update, we adjusted the timeline of the project to first offer training and then, in the second year of the project (2022), focus on these deeper relationships with equity consultants and organizations.
As of January 2023, 4 out of the 7 organizations have completed their relationships with equity consultants. These relationships included equity assessments for each organization, the formation of an equity stewardship team with staff, foundational training conducted by the consultant, and suggestions of work moving forward. The remaining 3 organizations in progress with equity consultants include the 2 large state institutions and 1 non profit organization. These relationships have proven more difficult due to more embedded issues of institutional power structures as well as organization turnover.
In a process and survey designed by the advisory board, all organizations completed a pre-equity consultant relationship. Those that have finished this relationship were given a similar post equity consultant survey. Beyond this survey, Bo Dennis conducted in depth interviews with each equity stewardship team at the organizations who completed the equity consultant relationship. Some of the questions asked in the qualitative interviews included:
- What were the outcomes and impacts on your organization working with your consultant both internally and externally?
- What barriers are you currently facing in implementing equity and justice principles in your work?
- Who engaged with the project? All staff or just leadership?
Some key findings from the post survey as well as these interviews include:
- Benefit of having an external equity consultant to hold them accountable to integrating equity changes
- Ongoing impact of established internal equity stewardship teams to bring the work forward post equity consultant
- Importance of staff and key leadership having a shared language and understanding of the organization's stance on issues of racial justice
- This project sparking momentum and solidarity amongst agriculture service providers
- Fear of turn over at the organization affecting momentum
- Challenges onboarding new staff to the equity journey of the organization
- Challenges of time and capacity for staff to fully integrate equity changes into their work plans
By January 2022, all seven organizations were matched with professional equity consultants and had begun their work together with project design and starting to conduct organizational assessments. We adjusted the timeline of the project to first offer training and then, in the second year of the project, focused on these deeper relationships with equity consultants and organizations. Because the relationships took considerable time to establish, offering the training first provided an opportunity for organizational staff to build a shared language. We noted the milestone as in progress because we did not issue a post-facilitation assessment at the end of 2021 because the equity consultations are just beginning. We proposed issuing a mid-year assessment to complete the milestone.
In the spring of 2021, Bo Dennis met one-on-one with all of the organizations’ leadership, along with with a large number of equity consultants, in order to make the best matches. Equity consultants and organization leads then independently started relationships and signed contracts, which this SARE grant reimburses. Prior to engaging with the equity consultants, executive directors of the organizations completed a pre-survey to establish a baseline. Each contract agreement includes an equity assessment of the organization, foundational training for board and staff, and collaborative development of a road map for continued learning and actionable steps to make the agriculture organization more equitable. Each organization is of a different scale and varying position in their current commitment to equity, so exact details of process are specific to that relationship, while all agreeing to the outcomes.
The following trainings were offered in 2021. In total there were 190 participants.
Supporting LGBTQ+ Maine farmers: This workshop included a LGBTQ+ 101 training provided by EqualityMaine, a presentation specific to supporting queer farmers, and a farmer panel featuring LGBTQ+ farmers from Maine sharing their experiences. There were 40 participants. Thanks to the training, 72% of attendees stated that they had increased their confidence in identifying and talking about issues such as homophobia and cissexsim as a result of this workshop. Action steps attendees committed to included: integrating gender pronouns into intake forms, expanding representation of farmer presenters to include queer growers, calling out discrimination in the workplace, and other ways of signaling allyship within an organization.
Wabanaki REACH 3-day decolonization training for conservation communities. 47 participants. This training was particularly impactful for service providers that work at land focused organizations in considering how they are engaged in continuing colonization.
Anti-bias trainings with Cross Cultural Community Services. 103 Participants. This 3-part training series addressed race, white privilege, equity, how to confront discrimination and bias in Maine and practicing courageous conversations about race.
In addition to the trainings listed above, a Cross Organization Equity Cohort has formed to help digest and reflect on these trainings. Meetings are held monthly with all of BFRN service providers being invited. On average 10 people representing various organizations attend each month. These are currently facilitated by Bo Dennis but in 2022 this will change to a collectively held facilitation space to encourage cross organizational leadership. While not originally in the project design, this has proved effective in building relationships and accountability for integrating equity work. The goals of this group are to:
- Help with internal accountability of organizations to move racial equity and social justice work forward, especially after larger trainings
- Provide space for staff to connect across organizations in order to build collective momentum in the agriculture service provider community for equitable systems change. Participants share ideas and talk about what each home organization is working through.
- Promote wider organization staff attendance to SARE PDP funded training, once training is scheduled.
As noted above, this goal was completed for 4 of the 7 organizations but the equity consultant relationship is still in progress for 3 organizations. Each relationship includes foundation core training and will be reported upon in our final project report when all relationships are concluded. Currently 120 staff and board members at these 4 organizations combined have attended training led by external equity consultants.
This goal has shifted instead to provide facilitated conversations with the Maine Farmer Resource Network (MFRN) around the values and impact of agriculture service providers in Maine and service providers' commitments to equity and racial justice. Bo Dennis facilitated an initial conversation in August of 2022 and is currently coordinating with an external facilitator, Deb Bicknell, to work with MFRN in spring of 2023 to clearly define the group's values and commitments.
For the 4 organizations who completed their relationship with equity consultants, clear changes to policies and cultural norms happened, as highlighted in the post equity consultant survey and qualitative interviews conducted. Below are some of these examples, and in many cases each one listed is happening at multiple organizations.
- Formed an ongoing staff equity stewardship team that meets regularly to implement suggested changes from the equity consultant and lessons learned from all staff trainings
- Developed a salary and compensation report for increased transparency for all staff
- Improved staff recruitment process and increased focus on staff wellness
- Integrated an equity lens into technical assistance processes for farmers
- Began asking for feedback from farmers about their demographics as well as experience working with the organizations
- Website changes
- Included pronouns and changed other language in email and openings for events
- Pairing land acknowledgments with tangible land justice commitments and actions
- Created more inclusive building infrastructure such as gender neutral bathrooms
A central impact of this project thus far is the 7 participating organizations' staff moving beyond discussions about equity and racial justice in broad terms to places of action to integrate changes into organizational work both internally and externally. These changes will impact the farmers' and community members' experiences of working with each organization.
Each organization conducts surveys of their own seeking feedback from farmers and other stakeholders. One of the questions on the pre and post survey was if and how organizations are asking farmers about their interactions with service providers. Through this project, organizations made a commitment to start asking farmers about their experience. For some organizations, this feedback from farmers needed to start one step back to understand who was interacting with their programming, before asking about their experience. Some direct examples came from a new University of Maine Cooperative Extension demographic survey and Maine Farmland Trust land stewards asking a question about support needed from the organization while on site visits. Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association Organic Certification plans to launch a similar questionnaire in 2023.
As listed in a previous milestone reflection, changes have already been implemented at various organizations to increase the accessibility of their programming for farmers. A best practices publication of the themes of this project and changes implemented will be written in 2023.
All seven organizations completed a pre-equity consultant relationship survey as designed by the advisory team of this overall project and then, upon beginning the relationship with their matched equity consultant, did a more thorough assessment.
Milestone Activities and Participation Summary
Educational activities and events conducted by the project team:
Participants in the project’s educational activities:
A post-training evaluation was sent to all who participated in a service provider training. These were collaboratively designed by the project advisory team to ensure they tracked measurable goals and definitive action steps, moving beyond just knowledge gain but to true implementation of concepts learned. Goals included gained confidence in talking about a subject, ability to apply an equity lens to their programmatic work and farmer interactions, and tangible action steps they will take. Key areas of growth included:
Understanding the history and current patterns of colonization and how these intersect with agriculture
The impacts of heterosexism and how to better support LGBTQ+ farmers
Institutionalized discrimination against people of color in the food system
Identifying service providers’ own biases and how this influences their work
The importance of integrating an equity lens into all work with farmers
The Cross Organizational Monthly Equity Space continues to be offered and is facilitated by Bo Dennis. This averages 12 participants each month coming together to digest new equity materials presented as well as reflect on any current pressing issues of justice and farming coming up in their daily work. This will be continued in 2023.
Performance Target Outcomes
Performance Target Outcomes - Service Providers
120 Maine service providers and 7 agricultural organizations will increase understanding of biases, barriers, and the specific needs of farmers and food producers from diverse backgrounds, resulting in farmers of all identities feeling supported by agriculture service providers and more comfortable accessing resources and services to ensure their farm’s success.
- 7 Consultations
- 10 Online trainings
- 24 Webinars/talks/presentations