Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Training for Agricultural Organizations and Individual Service Providers

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2021: $149,990.00
Projected End Date: 02/29/2024
Grant Recipient: Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
Region: Northeast
State: Maine
Project Leader:
Ryan Dennett
Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association

Information Products


Not commodity specific


  • Education and Training: workshop
  • Sustainable Communities: ethnic differences/cultural and demographic change, social capital

    Proposal abstract:

    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.

    Performance targets from proposal:

    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.

    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.