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Integrating Food Justice into Rural Farmer Training Programs

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Integrating Food Justice into Rural Farmer Training Programs

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  1. Groundswell Center for Local Food & FarmingIthaca & Central New YorkElizabeth Gabriel, DirectorKate Cardona, Equity & Outreach Coordinator Integrating Food Justice into Rural Farmer Training Programs

  2. Photo: The Groundswell Incubator Farm Todays Agenda • A little about Groundswell Center • Brief history of race & racism in agriculture • Our development and efforts to create a just, sustainable and vibrant local food system • Our story, our region, our foundation • There is no cookie cutter approach to this work • Questions/Comments/Feedback • Trigger Warning – This webinar discusses race, racism, white privilege, power, and other topics that people may be sensitive to

  3. History 2009: Farmers, community leaders, and community members founded Groundswell Center to address the fast growing interest of beginning farmers in our region • Initial Organizational Goals: • Leverage knowledge and business success of local organic farmers in central NY • Provide effective farm-based education and training for other aspiring farmers • Diversify and strengthen the reginoal food system Photo: 9-month Orchard Management Intensive (2015), West Haven Farm

  4. Groundswell’s Mission and vision • Our services are guided by a commitment to sustainability, economic viability, equity and justice in the food system • We support the dismantling racial and social injustices in the food system • We prioritize individuals underrepresented in food and farming including refugees and people of color • We reduce barriers for aspiring farm and food entrepreneurs • We are small organization that adapts to the needs of our community • Engage diverse learners and empower them with skills, knowledge and access to resources so they can build sustainable land-based livelihoods and equitable local food systems. Photo: Incubator Farmer Taylor Schuler and Incubator Farm Manager Liz Coakley

  5. The HISTORY of Race & Racism in U.S. Agriculture • What We Mean by Racism • Racism = Prejudice + Power • We are talking about structural racism: • “Structural racism refers to the ways in which social structures and institutions, over time, perpetuate and produce cumulative, durable, race-based inequalities. This can occur even in the absence of racist intent on the part of individuals.” • Structural racism encompasses 1. History 2. Culture and 3. Interconnected institutions and policies • Racism has prevented the creation of a truly equitable and sustainable food system. There can be no fairness in the food system if we are not working to undo racism in our communities and organizations.

  6. How Have Racism and the Food System Evolved Together? • Colonization and Land Dispossession • The history of European and later U.S. colonialism show us how a “racial caste system” was used to justify the exploitation and inhumane treatment of peoples throughout the Americas, Africa and Asia. • This caste system afforded the privileges of “whiteness” to light-complexioned people of Northern European descent, and denied these privileges and basic human rights to those it deemed non-white or of color. Source: Eric Holt-Giménezand Breeze Harper, “Food—Systems—Racism: From Mistreatment to Transformation” published in FoodFirst

  7. The colonization of the u.s. • In the United States, the racial caste system was to justify the genocidal military conquest and government treaties that either killed or stole land from over 10 million indigenous people. • Many of the indigenous people who lost their land were small farmers and lived in towns. White planters and small farmer-settlers looking for free or cheap land were main agents of colonization. • Examples throughout U.S. history include: • The Clinton-Sullivan Campaign (1779, Finger Lakes Region) • The Louisiana Purchase (1803) • The Homestead Act (1862, Western U.S.) • The Indian Removal Act and the Trail of Tears (1830-1850, Southeastern U.S.)

  8. Slavery in the u.s. • The enslaved labor of African people in the U.S. outcompeted agrarian wage labor for over 200 years (1619-1865). • “[It] was not the small farmers of the rough New England countryside who established the United States’ economic position. It was the backbreaking labor of unremunerated American slaves in places like South Carolina, Mississippi, and Alabama… After the Civil War [and Abolition], a new kind of capitalism arose, in the United States and elsewhere. Yet that new capitalism [...] had been enabled by the profits, institutions, networks, technologies, and innovations that emerged from slavery, colonialism, and land expropriation.” – Sven Bekert

  9. Exploitation of Immigrant Labor in the Food System and its Contradictions • The California Alien Land Law of 1913 reserved land for white growers and prohibited "aliens ineligible for citizenship" from owning agricultural land or possessing long-term leases over it. It affected Chinese, Indian, Japanese, and Korean immigrant farmers in California. • The Passing of the Social Security Act (1935) , the creation of the National Labor Review Board (1935) and the Fair Labor Standards Act (1938) • The acts specifically excluded two occupations: agricultural workers and domestic workers, who were predominately African American, Mexican, and Asian.

  10. Impact of Racism & Oppression in the Food System Today: Food Security • Of the 50 million food insecure people in the US 10.6% are white, 26.1% are Black, 23.7% are Latino and 23% are Native American • High rates of hunger, food insecurity, and diet-related disease among people of color is rarely attributed to racism

  11. Impact Continued: Land ownership • The entire country was taken from its original indigenous inhabitants • African-Americans once owned 16 million acres of farmland • By 1997, less than 20,000 Black farmers owned just 2 million acres of land • The rate of Black land loss has been twice that of white land loss • Of the country’s 2.1 million farmers, only 8 % are farmers of color and only half of those are owners of land(USDA 2012 Census) • The average size of farms owned by black or African American operators is 125 acres compared with 434 acres as the average size of all farms • Though their farm share is growing, people of color tend to earn less than $10,000 in annual sales, produce only 3% of agricultural value, and farm just 2.8% of farm acreage.

  12. Impact Continued: food System workers • “While white farmers dominate as operator-owners, farmworkers and food workers—from field to fork—are overwhelmingly people of color.” (Holt-Giménez & Harper) • Most are paid poverty wages and experience nearly twice the level of wage theft than white workers • White food workers’ average incomes = $25,024 a year • Workers of color = $19,349 a year • White workers hold nearly 75% of the managerial positions in the food system. Latinos hold 13% and Black and Asian workers 6.5%

  13. Inspiration • Coalition of Immokalee Workers in Florida • Food Chain Workers Alliance • Migrant Justice in Vermont • The Agricultural Justice Project • the National Young Farmers Coalition • Soul Fire Farm in Petersburg NY • D-town Farm and Malik Yakini in Detroit • the Youth Farm Project right here in Danby and so many more.

  14. Beginning Farmer Landscape • “Back to the Land” movements (organic agriculture, permaculture, CSA, farmers markets, food hubs, bft, etc.) rarely address racism.

  15. Organizational Development • There’s no one-size fits all approach to equity and justice or creating an anti-racist organization. • Consider organizations’ size, structure, mission, stakeholders, audience and location. • Consider goals, vision, foundation, and individual and organizational readiness – uprooting racism in food and farming is not easy work! Photo: Incubator Farmers touring King Bird Farm

  16. Our Landscape • Tompkins County Demographics – most diverse in our region

  17. Organizational Development Diverse cultures and norms are central in practice, policy and leadership. Diversity & inclusion Dominant white culture. POC expected to fit in. Equity & Justice

  18. Step 1: Assessment & Evaluation2016 - Are we contributing to building an Equitable food System? How? How are we not? • Our programs targeted marginalized people including POC, veterans and refugees • # of non-white participants was relatively low • POC in leadership roles was almost none • We were known as a beginning farmer training organization • Our programs and services focused almost only on business development and technical support without attention to justice or equity • Our close partnerships, leadership and courses were almost 100% white individuals/orgs • We engaged people of color in various ways, but were not centralizing these voices, and forming relationships of mutual benefit and trust • Our marketing and story was not inclusive, valuing and highlighting contributions of POC Photo: Pasture Management Course, Northland Sheep Dairy

  19. Step 2: Self Education Step 3: Build Relationships with POC Step 4: Shift in Culture Step 5: Shift in Policy & protocol Step 6: Communications Step 7: Establish System of Accountability Photo: Finger Lakes CRAFT Farm Tour (2015), Good Life Farm

  20. Education: Support food justice education and racial justice awareness not only within Groundswell, but within our wider community as well. • Publicly acknowledging and honoring whose land we reside and grow on, the Cayuga Nation of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy • Hosting public food justice related educational events, such as the Farm to Plate Conference and From Farm to Table to Justice farmworker rights event • Incorporating a food justice curriculum into our Farm Business Planning classes, and finding ways to include pieces of this curriculum in all Groundswell courses and workshops • Opening anti-racism trainings Groundswell organizes or hosts to the wider community • Hosting community field trips to justice-oriented farms and organizations, such as Soul Fire Farm in Petersburg, NY • Presenting our justice and equity efforts at food conferences

  21. Relationship Building: Develop collaborative and supportive relationships with people of color and organizations led by people of color, and extend and deepen support for local farmers, gardeners and growers of color and immigrant and refugee farmers. Act to challenge racism in the food and farming community and beyond. • Groundswell Incubator Farm prioritizes space for growers most impacted by systemic injustice in the food system, including immigrants, refugees and people of color • Contributing money, time and energy to community events that support POC leadership • Making a staff commitment to working 5 hours per month (paid by Groundswell) with a local organization that centers racial justice and equity in their mission. • Acknowledging the huge agricultural contributions made by Black, Latino, Indigenous and Asian growers and farmers throughout history and rejecting the whitewashing of this history • Sharing our office space and hosting other people/organizations’ events and meetings as we are able • Launch “Farming for Justice Network” as a way to support the regional farming community to engage with issues of systemic racism and oppression in agriculture • Hiring educators of color to teach and lead Groundswell courses and workshops • Speaking out in our own farming communities and families to challenge racism and call people in to racial justice work

  22. Culture: Create an anti-racist environment where all staff, board members and volunteers are seen, respected, and supported to participate fully. • Organizing, hosting or attending anti-racism trainings, such as those led by the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond • Holding bimonthly staff education sessions on the topics of racial justice and equity, food justice, building equitable organizations etc. • Committing to our own ongoing education and self-awareness on these topics • Orienting all Groundswell course contractors to our justice and equity mission and goals, and supporting them to incorporate these themes into their teaching • Sharing Equity Statement and other justice and equity onboarding documents with all new hires and board members, ensuring full commitment to Groundswell’s mission and vision

  23. Policies: Implement a hiring protocol that holds us accountable to creating a just food system • Creating accessible position descriptions that value lived experiences as well as ‘traditional’ experiences, publicizes these positions near and far both online and in person, offers alternative forms of interviewing methods, and requires a team of diverse reviewers who make the final hiring choice. Work with staff and board members to ensure our meetings and events are accessible • Including but not limited to providing childcare, transportation and language interpretation as needed.

  24. Communications: review & Develop our website, promotional materials and course descriptions • Including language and images that highlight racial/social justice and inclusive, appropriate language.

  25. COMMIT: Commit ourselves to this ongoing work by regularly evaluating the composition and organizational culture of our staff, board and board committees through quarterly self-assessment and quarterly engagement with the Equity and Accountability Committee. • Developing a compensated Equity and Accountability Committee made up of people of color and allies active in food justice work locally, who provide feedback on all aspects of Groundswell programs, planning and equity goals. Listening openly and humbly to this feedback and actively incorporating recommendations. • Reviewing equity statement, goals, progress made, ongoing needs and future action steps as a staff quarterly. • Reviewing equity statement, goals, progress made, ongoing needs and future action steps at two Board Meetings per year, with at least half of the meeting spent on this topic. • Reviewing equity statement, goals, progress made, ongoing needs and future action steps at two Committee meetings per year (Development Committee, Incubator Committee and Equity and Accountability Committee). • Continuing to brainstorm ways to achieve increased community accountability (listening sessions, community meetings etc.)

  26. Eventually move from being a majority white organization to an anti-racist multicultural organization, with people of color occupying at least 50% of staff and board positions.

  27. Resources • Groundswell Equity Statement • Resources on Food Justice and Food Sovereignty, Structural Racism in the Food System, Farm and Food Workers’ Rights, Building Equitable Organizations, Racial Equity Terms and Definitions, Organizations Working at the Intersection of Food/Farming and Social Justice • Found here:

  28. Thank you!Contact information • Elizabeth Gabriel, Director • • Kate Cardona, Equity & Outreach Coordinator •