By Sam Bowman
Over the last year, people have become increasingly aware of the need to support independent and local businesses. This has been especially focused on the service industry and businesses that thrive on in-person customers. As we continue to see the effects of restricted access, and changes in supply and demand, minority organic farmers need our support as well.
The past year has made it clear that sustainability goes beyond big corporations. When addressing the issue of food security and quality, we have to find ways to support minority-owned, organic farms. There are several reasons for this.
Minority-owned organic farms face systemic problems at all levels. From the effects of racism on available land to the proliferation of mass-produced products that are brought from overseas or across the nation, these businesses often struggle to balance sustainability and profit. Additionally, they face racial and societal prejudice that limits their ability to establish themselves and thrive as a local business.
Research and Racism
A good first step in learning how to support minority-owned organic farms is to do some research into why they need your support. While there are many complex political and economic issues for these businesses to face, their positive impact on the surrounding community is very evident. Supporting minority organic farms can improve the quality of your food, support the local economy, and improve the environment.
98% of agricultural land is held by a white demographic, which means minority organic farmers have to work against not only social stigma, but the continued suppression of minority voices in an industry that relies on their labor. Buying land and building an organic farm puts control back in the hands of those who work the land itself, and supports the growth of minorities in an overwhelmingly white industry.
Though it may not feel like researching the origins and reality of these farms is helpful, education is vital to supporting minority businesses and helping them thrive. This is the basis for taking more direct action. Once you know the facts and figures, you can move on to supporting them through your own purchasing habits and supporting local resources.
Local Education and Health
Teaching the value of local resources and minority-owned businesses starts young. It is never too late to change your spending habits, and while doing so educate the next generation on healthy, conscious ways of sourcing and consuming resources. Depending on the age group you want to engage, you can approach education in different ways.
Children learn how to act and engage with the world through the actions of the adults around them, and what those adults value. For your own children, talk to them about where you are getting your food from, and why. If you want to go further, find ways to take them to see a farm or help arrange a class field trip with one of their teachers. If you are interested in engaging the current consumer population, you will want to take a different tack.
Targeting awareness and education of adults in your community can be a somewhat more difficult task. These efforts, however, can provide more immediate results. Consider putting together online resources for people looking to support local and sustainable farming, or reaching out to local farmers markets about creating an educational element to their regular event. In this way, you can connect directly with those who have the economic spending power.
Engage and Advocate
If your passion for supporting minority organic farms goes beyond local engagement and raising awareness, consider finding ways to support the development of these businesses beyond how you shop. Minority business owners who have restricted access to financial and economic resources may not be aware of some of the options that they have. Reach out to organizations that offer financial assistance and education to minority business owners, and find out how you can get involved.
Another way of directly supporting the survival of these farms is to get involved in advocacy. This can be at local, state, or national levels, and can help change the overall landscape of the farming industry. These efforts can focus on a specific demographic, environmental impact, or building local support.
There are many ways to advocate for and engage minority organic farmers. By focusing your attention on a specific form of advocacy, you can address systemic issues that are keeping these farmers from being able to grow and thrive. You can also support the positive impact that these farms have on their local community.
2020 showed us the importance of sustainable resources and the need to support our local businesses in a time of great need, and minority farmers are no different. While we continue as a society to appreciate diversity in the workplace, in education, and in agriculture, the impact on local communities cannot be ignored or undervalued. By taking steps to support minority farmers through education efforts, changing buying habits, and becoming a part of advocacy organizations can help communities support each other through hard times.
This post was previously published on emagazine.com.
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