Farmers of color play a major role in America’s food system, but they face unique challenges and have developed innovative solutions that are not well documented at a national scale. To better understand the challenges and opportunities, the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) with the Intertribal Agriculture Council (IAC), Hmong American Famers Association (HAFA), and Dr. Jennifer Taylor from the Florida A&M University’s (FAMU) College of Agriculture and Food Sciences and a team of advisors are preparing a national participatory assessment of innovations and success stories, opportunities and challenges of farmers of color (FOC) throughout the United States.
Recognizing that the needs of farmers of color are poorly understood, but understanding that a high percentage are low-income, disadvantaged, and historically under-served people, public and private investment is necessary to begin addressing decades of under investment. Private foundations have indicated a commitment to increase philanthropic support and investments in farmers of color and the organizations that support them. Funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Farmer Equity National Assessment will evaluate opportunities, challenges and priorities for Native American, African American, Asian American, Latino/Hispanic, and immigrant farmers in communities throughout the US. Documenting this information will assist funders in making strategic programmatic investment decisions.
Project partners will develop an Advisory Council, and together will determine the approach and process to conduct the Farmer Equity National Assessment. The program goal is to collaboratively and equitably co-create, develop, and deliver a national-scale assessment. The assessment may include a field survey of farmers of color and FOC networks to identify best practices and opportunities for leveraging impact. The objectives are to identify FOC innovations and best practices, examine challenges and barriers, determine opportunities for systems change, find systemic change already happening, and highlight case studies, success stories, and lessons learned.
About the Project Team
The Intertribal Agriculture Council was founded in 1987 to pursue and promote the conservation, development and use of our agricultural resources for the betterment of our people. Land-based agricultural resources are vital to the economic and social welfare of many Native American and Alaskan Tribes. The harmonies of man, soil, water, air, vegetation and wildlife that collectively make-up the American Indian agriculture community, influence our emotional and spiritual well being. Prior to 1987, American Indian agriculture was basically unheard of outside reservation boundaries. Since that time, IAC has grown to prominence in Indian Country and among the federal government agencies and the agricultural field with which it works on behalf of individual Indian producers and Tribal enterprises. The IAC has, over the last three decades, become recognized as the most respected voice within the Indian community and government circles on agricultural policies and programs in Indian country.
Zach Ducheneaux is part of the third generation to operate the family ranch on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation in north central South Dakota. He and his brothers are now raising the fourth generation on the same ranch. A former tribal council representative for the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe—also among the third generation to have done so. He has been with the IAC since the 1990’s; first as a Farm Advocate, then as a Tribal Delegate, and Secretary of the Board, the Technical Assistance Program Director and now serves as the incoming Executive Director.
FAMU, a historically black college and university, was established in 1891, the College of Agriculture and Food Sciences (CAFS) enjoys a rich educational legacy because of its history as the original land-grant component implemented at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU).
Jennifer Taylor, Ph.D. is the granddaughter of a sharecropper and is a small farmer, a certified organic farmer, and advocate for underserved small farm populations and their communities. As an Associate Professor at FAMU she created, developed, and implemented the FAMU state-wide Small Farm Program, an active participatory capacity building program designed to assist and equip underserved small farm populations and their communities toward a thriving sustainable development. Participatory education, hands-on training and technical assistance are provided in the areas of alternative agricultural production and natural resource management systems (organic farming systems, regenerative organic agriculture, agroecology farming systems); alternative market development, food sovereignty, and sustainable living systems, etc.; to enable wellbeing and quality of life of underserved small farm populations and their communities. Taylor served on the National Organic Standards Board for the USDA National Organic Program and served on the USDA Advisory Committee on Beginning Farmers and Ranchers. Taylor currently serves as United States Food Sovereignty Alliance (USFSA) National Co-Convener; Organic Farmers Association (OFA) Governing Council Vice-President; Vice-Chair; International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements-North America (IFOAM NA), Vice President; Rodale Institute Board of Directors; National Organic Coalition, Advisory Member; Cornucopia Institute, Policy Advisory Member; Georgia Organics Board Member; and member of The Real Organic Project Standards Board.
In 2011, a group of Hmong American farming families formed the Hmong American Farmers Association because we believed the best people to support Hmong farmers are Hmong farmers themselves and that we are all lifted up when those who are affected by an unfair food system lead the change we seek. HAFA is dedicated to advancing the prosperity of Hmong farmers through cooperative endeavors, capacity building and advocacy. Through collective farm business development, education and advocacy, we are building paths to wealth creation, not just income generation, toward a sustainable, fair food economy for all.
Janssen Hang is the Executive Director and Co-Founder of the Hmong American Farmers Association. Janssen grew up growing, harvesting and selling vegetables for the local food economy and currently runs his family-owned value-added business making spring rolls and egg rolls at the downtown Saint Paul Farmers Market. A 2001 Saint Olaf graduate in Biology and Asian Studies, Janssen has over 20 years of experience in agriculture, 12 years in small business management, and 7 years as a licensed real estate agent. Janssen is also one among just a few certified Hmong Mekongs (cultural broker). Janssen likes to spend his free time with his family in the outdoors.
NCAT’s mission is helping people build resilient communities through local and sustainable solutions that reduce poverty, strengthen self-reliance, and protect natural resources. NCAT has over 40 years of experience as a national leader promoting sustainable agriculture, renewable energy and energy efficiency focused on historically disadvantaged communities. Through six regional offices and the ATTRA project, NCAT offers many types of technical assistance: in-person, over the phone, online chats, and online publications, podcasts, videos, and other sources of information. NCAT’s key team members for the Farmer Equity National Assessment are agricultural specialists serving farmers of color and communities of color nationally for over three decades. Seven out of nine team members are people of color, half of the team are farmers and/or grew up in a farming family, and three are women of color. The NCAT team will work with project partners to engage farmers of colors, recruit advisory council members, and listen to other stakeholders in their regions.
Devona Bell is NCAT’s Director of Sustainable Agriculture with a M.S. in Natural Resource Policy and Administration, North Carolina State University, and farms in SW Virginia. She works to empower and develop NCAT’s sustainable agriculture staff and farmers nationally. With over 20 years of national and global experience working with vulnerable, marginalized, and disenfranchised populations, D. Bell brings to the project a wealth of knowledge, partner relationship management, and leadership skills. She will co-facilitate NCAT’s team and partners in communication, planning, and implementation of inclusivity. Participatory planning will guide the research, development, and implementation of the National Assessment.
Rockiell Woods is NCAT’s Gulf States Regional Director with a M.S. in Agricultural Economics from Alcorn State University. He has an extensive agriculture background focused on traditional row & non-traditional vegetable crops (sweet potato, field peas, and greens). Woods has worked extensively to assist small-scale, limited resource African American farmers in Mississippi and the Deep South for over 20 years. Woods is a fourth-generation soybean farmer in the Mississippi Delta.
Felicia Bell is an NCAT Agriculture Specialist and a farmer from a multi-generational farming family. She holds a B.S. in Biology from Jackson State University. F. Bell has over 30 years of experience working with historically disadvantaged African American farmers, and more than ten years’ experience with producer trainings, field days, one-on-one assistance, and workshops that assist minority and underserved producers to improve their communities and become healthier, more self-sufficient and energy-conscious through sustainable and traditional farm practices while helping to improve environmental conditions. F. Bell is experienced in peer-to-peer training to assist USDA partners and state and local NGOs in understanding the importance of sustainable agriculture methods and techniques. She will co-facilitate NCAT’s team and partners in communication, planning, and implementation of inclusivity.
Asha Tillman is a graduate of Tuskegee University with a M.S. in Animal Science. Tillman is an NCAT Agricultural Specialist. She is a Mississippian who grew up in a farming family. She has experience working in planning, community organizing, and facilitating field days and trainer workshops with local limited resource producers and farmers who seek to grow their knowledge in agroforestry and silvopasture. Her training experience also includes technical knowledge in grazing management and knowledge of Kiko goats’ diurnal behavior and their preference of selected browse species.
Robert Maggiani is a Sustainable Agriculture Specialist who has been working in agriculture in South Texas and Mexico since 1976, serving Mexican and Hispanic farmers and farmworker cooperatives throughout the region. Maggiani holds a M.S. in Political Science from the University of Texas at Austin. He is fluent in Spanish and directed NCAT’s annual Texas Hispanic Farmer and Rancher Conference for several years, a conference co-sponsored with the National Resource Conservation Service. Maggiani has led hundreds of workshops and conferences about the production and marketing of agricultural products in Texas, other states, and Mexico.
Justin Duncan is a Sustainable Agriculture Specialist who specializes in helping limited resource producers. He holds a M.S. in Plant Breeding from Texas A&M University. Duncan has experience in aiding farmers with the adaptation and implementation of organic farming practices through workshops, demonstration and capital acquisition, developing new sustainable agriculture publications, and working with new farmers and veterans interested in becoming farmers. His family has held land in Texas since Reconstruction, managing to hold on to some despite many obstacles.
Omar Rodriguez is an Agricultural Specialist with deep experience working with Latinx farmers. He holds a B.S. in International Agriculture Development from the University of California Davis. Rodriguez has dedicated much of his career to farmer education and outreach, including to disadvantaged populations. His general focus in this respect is aimed at shifting the population of farmers that he serves toward economically sustainable and increasingly ecologically conscious approaches to farming. After receiving his degree, Rodriguez journeyed to South America, where he worked with small-scale farmers to encourage diversification, business development, alternative technologies, and reforestation. In the years since, he has managed several farmers’ markets in the Bay Area and worked on an 80-acre permaculture farm in Montana. Rodriguez’s Spanish language proficiency is used to develop resources and events that reach farmers within the Latinx community. For the last two years, Rodriguez has led NCAT’s organization of the annual Latino Farmer Conference in California, a unique gathering where all presentations are in Spanish, with available English translation.
Jamie Fanous is a Sustainable Agriculture Specialist at NCAT. She is responsible for conducting educational outreach and implementation programs with specific emphasis on soil health, biodiversity, and farmer economic resilience. Before joining NCAT, she had committed nearly ten years to sustainable food and agriculture systems through positions at The Soil Health Institute, Global Development and Environment Institute, Tufts University, Gardens for Health International, and with farmers internationally in Ghana, Rwanda, Panama, Cuba, and Puerto Rico. Fanous’ previous work includes farm management, soil health and agriculture policy, and on-farm research and data management. She holds a M.S. in Agriculture, Food, and Environment, and a M.A. in Environmental Policy and Planning from Tufts University, and degrees in Environmental Studies and Geography from George Washington University.
Martin Guerena is a Sustainable Agriculture Specialist in NCAT’s California office with over 30 years of experience serving Latinx, Hmong and Mien, Middle Eastern, Nepalese, and Native American farmers in the West. Guerena holds a M.S. in Agriculture from the California Polytechnic State University and is a certified pest control advisor and trained agronomist. He has several years of experience as a grower and contributes to NCAT’s approach to crop production and integrated pest management. Guerena has expertise in outreach to small and medium farmers, ranchers, and other groups and organizations working in agriculture and interested in organic and sustainable agricultural practices.