When it comes to agriculture in the United States, there is a need for more equality across the board. From thousand-acre row crops to organic dairies, the industry could be much more diverse. The issues surrounding inequality in farming are complex, and the vast number of factors that create the current reality is not easily solved. However, there are simple ways we can create more equality in our farming system.
Hardworking people in agriculture deserve to be recognized and appropriately compensated for their work. Women, BIPOC, and LGBTQ folks deserve more support, especially in the world of young and beginning farmers. By addressing systemic issues in agriculture, educating consumers, and supporting minority farmers, we can foster resiliency that contributes to a more sustainable food system.
Address Systemic Issues
When it comes to growing food, the United States has a long history of relying on slaves and immigrants for labor. That practice, unfortunately, continues today. The statistics on race in agriculture are concerning, and there is a definite need to encourage and support BIPOC and LGBTQ farmers.
As of 2017, over 95% of U.S. farm producers were white. Farm producers are defined as the owners and principal operators of an agricultural business, not the farmworkers themselves.
In addition to the unsustainable practice of relying on migrant labor for farm work without supplying adequate pay, there are also serious discrepancies in gender and farm ownership. According to the USDA, only 14% of principal operators are female.
However, the notion that male farmers are more successful or qualified to run a farm operation is without a base. Partners of primary operators, often female, tend to handle the day-to-day operations, finances, marketing, and human resource management for agricultural enterprises.
Farming is a serious business that requires commitment, long days, and hard work. Growing food can be unpredictable, with no control over the weather or emergencies, like threats to livestock, that may arise. It is also an incredibly rewarding, fulfilling, and service-driven career. Individuals interested in farming tend to be incredibly driven, passionate, and determined folks.
If we address the systemic issues within agriculture that prevent so many individuals from cultivating success, we miss out on an opportunity to grow more food, more sustainably.
When most people picture an American farmer, they may see something akin to Old McDonald’s farm, probably featuring an older white male in a hat, flannel shirt, and big boots. However, the current demographics of farmers is changing.
Consumers need to know who is growing their food and how to support BIPOC farmers who may not have access to resources that others do. When it comes to diversity within farming, there are more people out there doing incredible work than we often realize — and it is important to share their stories.
For example, Diaspora Co. is an organic spice business working to support small farms in India while educating consumers on the true price of cheap spices. It is run by self-identifying queer women of color, and its mission is to inform consumers about where their spices come from and why it matters how they are grown.
Support BIPOC Farmers
Black communities in cities like New York and Chicago are starting urban farms focused on delivering healthy produce to marginalized communities. Minority neighborhoods are more likely to struggle with access to healthy food, and urban farming creates an opportunity for individuals to distribute nutritious fare to those who need it most.
In New York City, the nonprofit Harlem Grown delivers over 13,000 nutritious meals to homeless shelters in Harlem every week. In areas that struggle with food security, it is essential to support farmers who build resiliency within the system.
Equality in Farmers Benefits Us All
By supporting minority farmers, including women, LGBTQ, and BIPOC folks, we can build a more sustainable food system. Thousands of individuals across the United States are working hard to build resiliency in our food system while also cultivating social justice in their communities.
Environmental intersectionalism reminds us that how we treat the environment and human beings are interrelated. If we want to create more equality in our farming system, we need to address systemic issues, educate consumers, and support the farmers working to disrupt the industry.