- Education and Training: focus group
- Farm Business Management: marketing management
Problem and Justification: Historically, Black farmers have weathered injustices from blatant discrimination. Nationally, over the last century, black farmers have become severely underrepresented in farming and farm ownership. Black farm ownership declined from 10 million acres in 1930 to 4 million acres in 2012; black-owned farms have an average size of 77 acres, compared to 205 acres for white-owned farmers. (USDA, 2017). Additionally, between 2009 and 2016, black farmers -- even after the Pigford Settlement -- received .07% less of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) lending than they did between 2001 and 2008. This translates into $28 million less in financing during that period. (Stucki, 2019)
The impact of this nation’s extractive economic system and generations of institutionalized racism have created stark racial inequities in agriculture that reverberate closer to home. In New York State’s $42 billion agriculture and food industry, Black farmers number 139 (0.24%) of 57,000 farmers; white farmers have more than 500 times the land of Black farmers; Black farms receive 60% fewer government subsidies and support; Black farmers make $1 for every $5 a white farmer makes, and they make less than any other group, netting -$903 annually while the average farmer’s net income is $42,875. (USDA, 2017)
Solution and Approach: To address these disparities, our project will support Black farmers in NYS in increasing their financial and social sustainability through educational skillshares and the development of a marketing co-op. For the co-op, we will recruit founding farmer partners to develop the governance structure and establish a legal entity. This founding group will also identify a suite of marketing services to meet the needs of member farmers, including a website that features Black farmers in NYS, and a certification and branding program that will be enhanced by skillshares and networking opportunities developed through this project. The co-op will also link farmers to land that matches their needs and provide them with support for developing marketing plans.
In addition to the co-op, we will also develop and host a series of skillshares, which will take place both online and in-person (when possible, considering COVID-19). Skillshares topics will focus on increasing both financial and social sustainability, and will include financial literacy, communal wealth building, marketing yields, and creating new products. Participating Black farmers from New York State will be invited to join the new marketing co-op, as well as existing state and regional networks.
To measure our progress, we will track farmers who join the co-op and participate in educational skillshares; we will review marketing plans; current and new network affiliations; development of farmer’s growth initiatives; acres of land accessed; and those engaged in financing options offered through Black Farmer Fund.
Performance targets from proposal:
According to the 2017 USDA Census on Agriculture, Black farmers’ net income was negative -$906.00. Through webinars and skillshares, 50 Black farmers and food systems actors will discover new approaches to business management and marketing of their farm products, and participate in networking and educational opportunities with other Black farmers. At least 10 farmers will go further, establishing a Black farmer marketing co-op to: 1) increase their agricultural sales by $500, for a total increase of $5,000; 2) increase access to land and financial capital; and 3) enhance social sustainability through improved mental health, well-being, and community connections.