By Justine Post, Come to the Table Program Director, Rural Advancement Foundation, partner of the NC Council of Churches
BIPOC (Black & Brown, Indigenous, People of Color) farmers in the U.S. have long been held back by systemic racism. They have, and still do, face discrimination in accessing credit, loans, resources, and markets. In 2017, the average annual net farm income for white farmers was 12 times more than the average Black farmer. In North Carolina alone, Black farmers maintain about 1,500 of the state’s more than 46,000 farms. And 93% of Black North Carolina farmers generate less than $50,000 in revenue per year. While all small and mid-size farms in the US have been disappearing, BIPOC owned farms, already under-resourced, are particularly at threat.
One of the ways to counteract the lack of economic mobility that farmers of color face is to create opportunities ensuring market access. RAFI-USA’s Farmers of Color Network works through a collective model that is BIPOC farmer-centered and led. We ground our work in relationships because individual farm needs are inextricably tied to the health of the broader farm ecosystem. We utilize a mix of infrastructure grants, technical assistance, collective power building, and policy advocacy to support farmers’ production goals, market acquisition, and farm Revitalization.
Faith communities have a unique and dynamic role to play in their rural communities by partnering with farmers of color, and RAFI’s Come to the Table program and Farm & Faith Partnership Project has reinforced that work. Come to the Table provides mini-grants to rural churches that provide them with both the funding and connections to purchase goods directly from farmers of color. The produce and other goods are then distributed throughout their communities to those in need.
RAFI’s Farm & Faith Partnership Project creates mutually beneficial and self-sustaining economic partnerships between farmers of color and churches in their communities. These relationships result in farmers of color gaining additional sources of income and increased access to new local markets, while also increasing food security and access to fresh, healthy foods for rural communities.
An increase in partnerships between faith communities and farmers of color has proven to be a win for all parties involved. Farmers of color gain access to additional revenue streams; congregants receive high quality produce that is integrated into their weekly diets; food pantries acquire fresh, quality produce to distribute to those most in need; and the relationships between churches and farmers of color have the potential to strengthen rural economies that depend on trust, accountability, and opportunity to thrive.
Be sure to join the upcoming Come to the Table Conference from March 15-16.
Use the following discount code to register: phwcttt2022.