In 2017, the United States had 48,697 producers who identified as black and accounted for 1.4 percent of the country’s 3.4 million producers, according to the 2017 Census of Agriculture reports. Twenty-nine percent of those producers had been farming for 10 years or less, which is considered a beginning producer.
USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program provides grants to organizations for education, mentoring and technical assistance initiatives for beginning farmers and ranchers.
Here are just a few projects underway that are assisting Black farmers.
Since 2021, Kentucky State University has been working to address the need for training of small-scale, minority, and socially disadvantaged farmers and producers to develop strategies for the handling of produce and making of value-added products to follow Food Safety Modernization Act regulations. The project aims to provide in-person workshops and online training programming for handling of produce and packaging. Workshops and trainings on new potential value-added products such as confections, dried fruit, granola, hot sauce, and more will be offered along with creating undergraduate research and practicum opportunities.
North Carolina A&T State University and Emory University are working together to increase the likelihood that beginning farmers and ranchers will own or operate successful farms and ranches. This will be done by distributing production agriculture, marketing, business and finance, and climate-smart knowledge and skills, financial and digital entrepreneurial education. Project staff will educate participants on the potential of simple land management practices that are smart in conserving resources (soil, water, and environment) while obtaining food and nutritional security. Particularly, staff will consider unique circumstances and social contexts while addressing concerns of beginning farmers and ranchers.
In Mississippi, the New Beginning Farmers, Ranchers and Veterans Program at Alcorn State University aims to provide 150 new, beginning producers with farm management educational training in basic livestock, crop farming practices and forest management. The non-formal education activities range from pasture management to marketing and branding to wildlife habitat management.
Top image: Farmer examining kale from her garden. Courtesy of Adobe Stock.