Conference Overview & Background
While the challenges in supporting black and minority farmers are diverse and perhaps complex, there are some main themes which are key to explaining black and minority farmers deleterious experience in the United States. The following are key recommendations for interventions that will be presented in the agenda of the Black Farmer’s Fall Conference on Delaware State university campus to be held on November 8th and 9th, 2023.
Given that the average age of the black Delmarva farmer is estimated at 62.6 and that black farmland ownership is estimated at 1.3 percent of all Eastern Shore farmland, the trend of aging farmers and land loss is crucial to address. Resources need to be made accessible for young black farmers to both find and finance arable land—as it is also the case that numerous Delmarva acres remain as fallow or abandoned farmland. Strategies for linking new or transitioning farmers back to land include beginning farmer training and recruiting programs as well as creative financing options such as revolving loan funds and conservation loan programs. For black families, dealing with the risk of heir property loss is a phenomenon that displaces black land ownership nationwide. Thus, this reality precipitates the need for legal support to manage settlements and defend family land from deceitful developers.
Access to affordable and/or debt-free capital, infrastructure and labor are some of greatest needs of black farmers.
Third, parallel to this need, is the recurring sentiment that black farmers are proportionally disinterested in working with the government or assuming debt. This begs the question, how can farm businesses be viable if black farmers don’t change their attitudes?
Thus, more sincere outreach must be done to assure black farmers of the viability of new practices such as getting certifications, selling to new markets, or switching to specialty crops. Arguably, it is the responsibility of program officers, lending agencies, and educators to ensure their programs are truly nondiscriminatory by race or class.
Moreover, parties that are interested in supporting black farmers or seeing them switch to sustainable agriculture will need to demonstrate their sincere and reconciliatory intentions by assuming the financial risk of loans, increasing grants towards black-owned food system infrastructure, and making participation in government programs truly accessible. The start-up costs of shifting into alternative or sustainable agriculture, in addition to the knowledge and technology intensive production strategies, can be a barrier to entry. There are many opportunities for food systems partners to creatively balance the costs and partners need to demonstrate that commitment.
With the limited job opportunities the Eastern Shore and the major agricultural and industry consolidations the region has experienced in the last 60-80 years, providing business incubation and entrepreneur support in all aspects of food business, from production to packing or processing to marketing, will be a means to revitalizing the whole regional economy in addition to the viability of farmers. Furthermore, a variety of resources, training programs, market channels, and pieces of infrastructure are necessary for a diverse and thriving food system. Stakeholders should support small food businesses with interventions that are flexible to evolving opportunities, knowledge, and social and environmental changes. This conference will examine these interventions in a thorough interactive manner.
- To better the access Black Farmers must capital and other resources to develop their businesses.
- To improve access to Federal, State, local and municipal agencies which provide resources to the average farmer and to better the relationships between the agencies and the farmers they serve.
- To assist Black farmers with stress management skills when navigating the USDA systems and procedures
- To develop awareness regarding mental health and the career farming
- To increase product viability, marketing, and market access
- To educate the public on the existence of Black Farmers and what are the issues unique to the Black Farmers
- To increase the number of Black farmers in the United States
- To improve the professional relationships between the USDA and the Black Farmers in the United States of America
- To inspire a new cadre of farmers by intentionally presenting programing that will attract, young and new socially disadvantaged Black farmers.
- To understand the opportunities in the JUSTICE FOR BLACK FARMERS ACT for the Black farmer
- To promote strategies of resiliency in underserved communities
This First Annual Black Famers Conference
will be held on Delaware State University Campus at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Student Center and designated sessions will be held in various classrooms throughout the campus.
Paying homage to the Black Farmers Conference at Tuskegee University, the oldest event of its type in the nation, February 23, 1892, the First State African American Farmers’ Association through this effort, will endeavor to have the first of its kind In Delaware on the DSU campus. This conference will be a two-day educational and networking experience that features tours, panel discussions, interactive demonstrations, and concurrent workshops. The theme for this conference is “Growing together: Inspiring the next generation of farmers.” This conference will be a real opportunity to work with the USDA and other farm agencies in proactive manner to address some of the inequities of access to resources and capital for local producers of African descent and foster an atmosphere of accountability with forward-looking lens towards solutions and common ground. It will also seek to build an atmosphere of cooperation and good will between the local agricultural communities and the HBCU’s extension community as it recognizes the unique realities of the Black farmer.
This Conference seeks to draw people from all the major agencies, leaders, activists, and practitioners into the space to make this time together, meaningful, and productive. The producers and inspiring producers will be able to make appointments with all relevant agencies and fill out applications as they need to meet their entrepreneurial goals.