Growers talk about better access to resources, collaboration at Black Farming Conference in Ohio
More collaboration and accessible agricultural programs were key topics at this year's Black Farming Conference at Central State University on Saturday.
The conference, now in its fourth year, is presented by the Black Indigenous People of Color Farming Network. It celebrates the heritage of Black farmers in America and regenerative Afro-Indigenous farming practices developed by enslaved farmers, Patty Allen, chair of the 2023 Black Farming Conference planning committee said.
Farmers and advocates say starting a farming business is hard. But it’s disproportionately challenging for Black and brown farmers who’ve been excluded from accessing land or financial resources.
According to a survey conducted in 2022 from the National Young Farmers Coalition, 59% of all young farmers said finding affordable land was very or extremely challenging, while 65% of Black Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) farmers ranked finding affordable land to buy as very challenging.
Julialynne Walker, an urban farmer from Columbus who also runs the Bronzeville Growers Market, said beginning Black and brown farming businesses have different needs.
“In order for us to address some of the historic and contemporary inequities, we need to come together. We need to be able to address policy issues in the Farm bill. We need to be able to speak to our elected officials,” Walker said.
Trey Williams, who runs Hood Honey in Cleveland, said while state and federal resources are starting to emerge, there needs to be a more concerted effort by the agencies that run those programs to connect with farmers.
“There are a lot of resources available, but the awareness isn't there,” Williams said. “So a lot of people that's really one of the biggest issues we have here is just that awareness.”
Advocates said they would like to see less red tape to apply for USDA programs, and more training and access to capital.
Alejandro Figueroa is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.