Training Northeast Farmers to Confront and Dismantle Racism and Inequity in Food and Farming Systems

Progress report for ONE19-328

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2019: $26,712.00
Projected End Date: 09/30/2021
Grant Recipient: National Young Farmers Coalition
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Caitlin Arnold
National Young Farmers Coalition
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Project Information

Project Objectives:

This project seeks to demonstrate the power of young farmers to confront and dismantle racism and inequity in food and farming systems when offered comprehensive anti-racism trainings and resources.

This project has three main objectives:

    1. To provide young farmers in the Northeast the opportunity to attend one full-day anti-racism training at no cost;
    2. To complete the Coalition’s Racial Equity Toolkit, a resource for young farmers nationwide who wish to begin the work of addressing racism and inequity in the food system;
    3. To connect Coalition chapters with Black and Brown-led organizations that are doing this important work in their regions; and to ensure that resources funding this work are going directly to these organizations.

The full-day anti-racism trainings will provide young farmers in the Northeast with a shared understanding of racism in food and farming, and opportunities for their chapter to support farmers of color in their regions. The Racial Equity Toolkit will be a resource for Coalition chapters to begin regular discussions on racial equity and develop action plans for their chapters. Young farmers not part of a Coalition chapter can also use the Toolkit in their farming communities.To complete the Coalition’s Racial Equity Toolkit, a resource for young farmers nationwide who wish to begin the work of addressing racism and inequity in the food system;To connect Coalition chapters with Black and Brown-led organizations that are doing this important work in their regions; and to ensure that resources funding this work are going directly to these organizations.



In April 2019, the USDA released the results of the 2017 Census of Agriculture, a count of our nation’s farms and ranches. The Census found that the number of Latinx and non-white primary producers did not increase between 2012 and 2017; ninety-five percent of U.S. primary producers surveyed identified as White; and the number of Black, Latinx, Asian American, and Native American primary producers all decreased between 2012 and 2017 (USDA 2019). The many challenges that young farmers face today are not experienced equally; centuries of marginalization and systemic racism prevent many young people of color from pursuing careers in agriculture. 

The National Young Farmers Coalition (the Coalition) is a national organization that holds space for many different kinds of farmers: urban and rural, large and small-scale, with identities that cross or blur lines of race, class, and gender difference. As an organization we are committed to actively confronting racial inequity in the food system and invite our chapters to join us in this work. Racial justice is not simple inclusion of diversity, but rather for a shift in power and values informed and led by people who have been historically marginalized from land and power in the U.S. food system. 

Young farmers of color in the Northeast experience racism on a daily basis. These young farmers are seeking the same opportunities as white farmers in our region- access to land, capital and resources to build successful farm businesses. However, when moving to rural communities, farmers of color are confronted with barriers built by systemic racism- everyday aggressions, exclusion from existing rural networks and a lack of resources that acknowledge their unique experiences and needs. 

A just and healthy food system for all people won’t be possible if we don’t reckon with legacies of harm to people of color in the U.S.- forced migration, enslavement, and centuries of violent intimidation, disenfranchisement, and discrimination. Young farmers in the Northeast are uniquely positioned to create a different kind of rural farming community- one in which all young farmers have an equal chance to feel accepted and to succeed, regardless of race. By confronting racism and supporting young farmers of color, we are building more diverse and resilient farm communities. 

Coalition chapters are ready to engage in the work of racial equity and racial justice. However, most Coalition chapters have limited access to funding for trainings and resources. The Coalition currently provides trainings to our chapters around advocacy, policy, leadership and a variety of business services. In recent years, our chapters have been requesting funding from the Coalition to add trainings and resources on racial equity work. Many of our chapters have specifically requested funds from the Coalition to partner with professional trainers such as Soul Fire Farm or Soil Generation to provide full-day anti-racism trainings to their chapter members. Coalition chapters have also requested the creation of a Racial Equity Toolkit to help them begin this important work in their farm communities. This project aims to meet these requests. 


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Materials and methods:

Changes/Updates since last Progress Report (2/3/2020):

  1. Due to COVID-19, Soil Generation, the organization we were partnering with for the Pennsylvania training, had to cancel the training we were planning for April 2020. In August 2020 Soil Generation informed us they would not be able to plan the training virtually and needed to step away from the project. We were able to contract with Soul Fire Farm to complete the final training, as they were prepared to offer the Uprooting Racism Training virtually. That virtual training is now scheduled for January 20th, 2021. 

Racial Equity Toolkit:

The Racial Equity Toolkit was completed in May 2020 and published in early June 2020. To date since publication the Toolkit has been downloaded 6,340 times. We have gotten an overwhelmingly positive response to the Toolkit from both farmers and service providers. Many similar food and agriculture focused organizations have started using the Toolkit amongst their staff, and many of our farmer chapters across the country have begun using the Toolkit with their chapter members. We plan to make revisions to the Toolkit in 2021.

Chapter Trainings:

We have completed two of the three anti-racism trainings, with the third training planned for later this month. As stated above, Soil Generation was unable to complete the third in-person training in April 2020, and was unable to hold the training virtually this fall. We were able to contract with Soul Fire Farm to hold the final training virtually, which is scheduled for January 20th, 2021.

A total of 80 farmers participated in our first two trainings, held in January and February of 2020. 

Completed trainings:

  1. January 29th, 2020 with Soul Fire Farm in NY
  2. February 18th, 2020 with Soul Fire Farm in CT

Planned trainings:

  1. January 20th, 2021, with Soul Fire Farm (virtual); 84 farmers registered
Participation Summary

Education & Outreach Activities and Participation Summary

2 Consultations
1 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
2 Workshop field days

Participation Summary:

80 Farmers
Education/outreach description:

We hosted two full-day anti-racism Uprooting Racism trainings through Soul Fire Farm, serving a total of 80 farmers. We published the Racial Equity Toolkit which is available for free download through our website. To date, the Toolkit has been downloaded 6,340 times. It is hard to say exactly how many farmers and/or service providers have been reached through the Toolkit. We are now in the process of holding follow-up conversations with each of our Northeast farmer-led chapters around their use of the Toolkit so far.

Learning Outcomes

32 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation
Key areas in which farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitude, skills and/or awareness:
  • Individual actions to combat racism in our food system
  • Dismantling white supremacy
  • Policies that affect people and farmers of color
  • History of racism in the food system
  • Structural racism
  • Resources for continuing anti-racism learning and organizing 
  • Ideas for concrete, actionable steps to take 
  • Addressing racism on a personal and professional level

Project Outcomes

32 Farmers changed or adopted a practice
2 Grants applied for that built upon this project
Project outcomes:

All 32 farmers that responded to post-training evaluations and surveys reported one or more of the below adoption of and/or changes of behavior:

  • Further my farming/food/justice education 
  • Educate others about farming/food/justice issues
  • Apply the skills I learned to my current job
  • Deepen relationships between members of our farm/chapter/group/organization
  • Bring renewed energy, hope, and inspiration to the work
  • Improve practices in my farm/chapter/group/organization to increase effectiveness and/or equity
  • Take action toward racial justice/food justice in my community
  • Transfer resources or power to people targeted by oppression
  • Build upon the healing and joy experienced in the program 

Below are some of the success stories shared through the 6-month post-training survey:

“I've shared resources and had several conversations with a store I partner with. As a result they have made a commitment to supporting more BIPOC artisans and suppliers, as well as stocking more BIPOC authors in their book section, with proceeds from those books being donated to the Equal Justice Initiative.”

“We share conversations as a team weekly over lunch specifically dedicated to these things and daily in smaller ways. It's also shifted how we organize ourselves and make decisions.”

“We have included a racial equity statement in our chapter mission. Some members of our chapter are meeting biweekly via zoom to discuss how we can improve inclusiveness and racial equity within our chapter and communities. We plan on working through the racial equity toolkit from NYFC.”

“I facilitated a workshop about food justice and environmental racism. I also facilitated a staff meeting at an all-white organization where we talked about how the organization can move forward with anti-racist aims.” 

Information Products

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.