Creating a Black Farmer Commons in Transferring Land Ownership

Project Overview

LNE21-429R
Project Type: Research Only
Funds awarded in 2021: $198,214.00
Projected End Date: 03/01/2023
Grant Recipients: Corbin Hill Food Project, Inc; Farm Training Collective NYC INC, dba Farm School NYC
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Dr. Dennis Derryck
Corbin Hill Food Project, Inc

Commodities

Not commodity specific

Practices

  • Education and Training: decision support system, demonstration, focus group, mentoring, participatory research
  • Farm Business Management: agricultural finance, business planning, community-supported agriculture, cooperatives, farm succession, feasibility study, new enterprise development
  • Sustainable Communities: ethnic differences/cultural and demographic change, infrastructure analysis, partnerships, quality of life, social capital

    Proposal abstract:

    Black farmers have been marginalized nearly out of existence. Nationwide, 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; and in New York State, only 139 of 57,000 farmers were Black.  (USDA Census of Agriculture, 2017).

     

    This research project, “Creating a Black Farmers Commons in Transferring Land”, will explore how supportive facilitation and a sovereignty framework based on historic and current collective land ownership, business and governance models impact black farm tenure and viability. It will result in the first Black Farmer Commons in the Northeast -- a novel pilot model of Black ownership that will create land transfer processes adaptable to farmers without succession plans, and progress us toward a racially just, regenerative and equitable food system.  

     

    The research project also seeks to provide guidelines and answers to critical questions:

    • How can Black farmers' needs be addressed in our region within a sovereignty decision-making framework?
    • Can an ecosystem of organizations led by Black and indigenous people of color (BIPOC) providing educational, financial, social and operational support create new pathways for Black farmers’ collective success? 
    • How do we best increase Black land stewardship and ownership and innovate legal structures to protect Black farmers and reverse the history of Black land loss?
    • What guidelines and principles can help Black farmers reconnect to Black agrarian traditions and historical regenerative practices while creating community wealth? 

     

    • What new financial structures or models exist for Black farmers accessing financing beyond the limited underwriting laws or loan programs that currently do not serve them well? 

     

    The study sample consists of 12 promising, passionate, landless and capital-poor Black farmers in NYS -- centering female-identified and gender nonbinary people and including individual farmers and partnerships, beginning and experienced farmers, and those with a range of complementary skills including animal production, mixed vegetable production, CSA, direct market, wholesale marketing.

     

    Through participatory research guided by the Project Team, the farmers will identify gaps in their collective knowledge and expertise, and the Project Team will convene a team of experts to guide their process, covering but not limited to legal, financial and regenerative agriculture areas.  These professionals will serve as both a resource in providing information to fill critical knowledge gaps and a bridge to move from theory to practice for both project design and the implementation of the Black Farmers Commons.

    Performance targets from proposal:

    Corbin Hill (CH) and Farm School NYC  will research the development of the first Black Farmer Commons (BFC) in the Northeast.  CH intends to transfer 95-acres in New York to experienced, landless and under-resourced Black farmers as they co-create the BFC.  The research explores how supportive facilitation and a sovereignty framework based on historic and current collective land ownership, business and governance models impact black farm tenure and viability. The outcome expected is a novel pilot model of Black ownership, land transfer processes adaptable to farmers without succession plans, and progress toward a racially just, regenerative and equitable food system.

    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.