Farming while green and Brown: A case study of beginning farmers of color in California

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2023: $24,999.00
Projected End Date: 05/31/2025
Host Institution Award ID: G285-23-W9982
Grant Recipient: Three Feathers Farm
Region: Western
State: California
Principal Investigator:
Dilip Sharma
Three Feathers Farm


Not commodity specific


  • Education and Training: farmer to farmer
  • Farm Business Management: new enterprise development
  • Sustainable Communities: ethnic differences/cultural and demographic change

    Proposal summary:

    The title of our project is a reference to Leah Penniman’s “Farming While Black:  Soul Fire Farm’s Practice Guide to Liberation on the Land” (2018) written by a Black farmer in New York. Our project draws inspiration from this work to document and share our experiences as beginning farmers of color in California’s highly competitive agricultural landscape. Beginning farmers are a critical demographic in the U.S., as census data illustrates that the U.S. farmer population is both aging and shrinking, indicating the importance of young and new-entry farmers (USDA NASS 2017). Unfortunately, beginning farmers face a suite of challenges in developing sustainable farming operations, especially accessing land and start-up capital (Ahearn 2011; Calo 2018). Beginning farmers of color face additional challenges in developing their farm businesses, as they face both explicit and implicit racism in farming programs. Given the challenges that beginning farmers of color face in developing sustainable agricultural operations, it is important that these farmers understand strategies for accessing support. Our project aims to share strategies for accessing such support through a tightly-coupled approach to research and education.

    Our proposed research consists of a case study supported by qualitative analysis of participant observation data gathered from our day-to-day experiences as beginning, small-scale farmers of color. Findings will provide information about strategies for overcoming obstacles farcing beginning farmers of color. Following bi-weekly data analysis and identification of emergent themes, we will develop and upload monthly videos to YouTube, social media, and our website to share our most recent findings over the course of a 12-month period, for a total of 12 videos. We will also share major findings of our study through a field day at our farm in Morgan Hill, CA, and through a presentation at the annual EcoFarm conference in Pacific Grove, CA.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Research Objective 1: Conduct participant observation and collect ethnographic field notes daily to record the challenges we experience as we develop our farming operation.

    Research Objective 2: Conduct bi-weekly analysis of field notes to identify emergent themes.

    Educational Objective 1: Produce monthly YouTube videos and a website to host videos and additional resources.

    Educational Objective 2: Conduct an in-person farmer field day at our farm in Morgan Hill, CA.

    Educational Objective 3: Present our findings at the Ecological Farming Association’s annual conference in Pacific Grove, CA.

    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.