In one of the largest collaborative grantmaking efforts ever in the food and farming sector, 15 organizations awarded $2.235 million in grants to support 28 grassroots groups that are on the front lines of working with marginalized farmers and communities.
The grantmaking advisory committee — made up of majority Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) leaders from grassroots and national coalitions representing farmers, workers and impacted communities — received $8 million in requests from 54 organizations, showing widespread interest among frontline organizations in engaging in federal policy debates. The committee, which had a fraction of that amount to allocate, ultimately recommended funding 28 organizations, 91 percent of which are BIPOC led. All grantees represent BIPOC communities.
Grant awards range from $25,000 to $130,000 with an average grant size of $80,000. The funding reaches 21 states and Washington, D.C., two territories (Mariana Islands and Virgin Islands), the Navajo Nation, the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation, and the Nez Perce Tribe.
The awards come at the end of a year in which the farm bill expired and should have been renewed, though political jockeying has pushed any hope for passage of a renewed bill well into 2024.
“To transform the food and farm bill so that it serves all of us, the communities that have been the most marginalized by the status quo must be centered in policy debates and play an active role in those conversations,” said Dr. Ricardo Salvador, director of the Food and Environment Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, which brought together funders and nonprofit organizations to raise and distribute the funds.
Grantee organizations represent farmers, workers, communities addressing the climate crisis and low-income individuals supported by SNAP. Funding may be used to educate members of Congress on the needs of these communities. Several grantees are hiring policy staff to increase their capacity to engage in federal policy. Others are sending farmers to Capitol Hill or to meet with members of Congress in their districts.
One grantee, the Hand, Heart, and Soul Project, serves predominantly Black and brown families in Clayton County, the least resourced county in the metro Atlanta area, where a high proportion of the population receives food assistance and secure and stable housing continues to be a challenge. The organization has been engaged in federal policy for many years but has lacked the capacity to fully engage in both education and farm bill conversations. “We are able to hire a policy director only because of this opportunity,” said Executive Director Wande Okunoren-Meadows. “Now we will finally have the resources to influence the farm bill policies that directly affect us and our community members here in Atlanta and beyond, every day.”
The Midwest Farmers of Color Collective has already used funds to mobilize member farmers to discuss key challenges with elected and appointed officials. The group hosted a farm bill training with more than 50 BIPOC farmers in attendance, then invited members of Congress to attend an agricultural listening session at the November 4 Emerging Farmers Conference. Minnesota Commissioner of Agriculture Thom Petersen participated, along with Whitney Place, the executive director of the USDA’s Farm Service Agency Minnesota office, and staff from the offices of Governor Tim Waltz, Senators Tina Smith and Amy Klobuchar, and Representative Angie Craig.
The grantmaking committee included leaders from the Climate Justice Alliance, First Nations Development Institute, Food Chain Workers Alliance, Good Food for All, HEAL Food Alliance, La Semilla Food Center, Midwest Farmers of Color Collective, National Black Food & Justice Alliance, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, National Young Farmers Coalition, Rural Coalition, Union of Concerned Scientists, and United Food & Commercial Workers Union. Funding for this effort came from a combination of private foundation and individual donations. The committee will continue to raise funds to support farm bill engagement by historically underrepresented groups.
The full list of grantees area:
- Alabama State Association of Cooperatives
- Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, Inc.
- Black Dirt Farm Collective (BDFC)
- Cooperative Food Empowerment Directive (CoFED)
- Columbia River Inter Tribal Fish Commission
- Community to Community Development (C2C)
- Detroit Black Community Food Security Network (DBCFSN)
- Dreaming Out Loud
- East Alabama Black Belt Farmers Coop and West Georgia Farmers’ Cooperative
- Farmworker Association of Florida Inc.
- Hand, Heart, and Soul Project
- Idaho Organization of Resource Councils
- Kansas Black Farmers Association
- Kentucky Black Farmers Association
- Micronesia Climate Change Alliance
- Midwest Farmers of Color Collective
- NCABL Land Loss Prevention Project
- New Orleans Food Policy Action Council
- Not Our Farm
- Oklahoma Black Historical Research Project, Inc.
- Operation Spring Plant Inc.
- Springfield Food Policy Council/40 Acres Farms
- Toohnii Binaneestˀąˀ Ałtaasˀéí Alliance (ToohBAA)*
- Ujamaa Cooperative Farming Alliance
- Virgin Islands Good Food Coalition, Inc.
- West Michigan Farmers of Color Land Fund
- Workers Center of Central New York
- World Farmers