Black Farmer Fund is working to build resilient Black food economies in New York State.
For generations, Black farmers in the United States have been systematically excluded from access to finances, technical assistance, and land itself. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), there were nearly 950,000 farmers of color in 1920. In 2017, there were just 50,000. And in N.Y. just 139 of the state’s 57,000 farmers are Black, according to the 2017 USDA Census of Agriculture.
Olivia Watkins, President of Black Farmer Fund, explains that many Black farmers today struggle to obtain traditional loans and grants. This often prevents them from even being able to enter the farming profession.
“Increasing access to technical and financial assistance and providing space for community members to build collective decision-making power is essential to reducing these alarming disparities,” Watkins tells Food Tank.
Black Farmer Fund is working to generate a thriving, resilient food economy for Black food producers and consumers. The three-year-old community investment fund aggregates and redistributes the wealth of social impact investors to provide grants and loans to Black farmers and food businesses in N.Y.
“Black Farmer Fund seeks to provide an alternative way for community-driven Black farmers and food businesses in New York to access capital that is non-extractive, culturally-relevant, and governed by other Black farmers and food business owners,” Watkins tells Food Tank.
To fulfill its mission, Black Farmer Fund is structured to promote collective ownership and decision-making and build community wealth.
By helping Black farmers access capital, Black Farmer Fund hopes to provide equitable financing, knowledge, technical assistance, networking, and public policies for the Black food-producing community. In doing so, the Fund aims to repair Black communities’ relationships with food.
“Our framework of investing comes from the lens of what is the risk of not investing?” says Watkins.
Black Farmer Fund is currently piloting its investment models with 15 farms and food businesses from across the state. It hopes to fully launch its charitable loan fund and financing program by June 2021.