We also acknowledge that the death of a human being is too high a bar for evoking mass empathy and outrage for racial injustice. As an organization with a mission to build a healthier food system, we know we cannot succeed in advancing human and environmental health without addressing the deleterious effects of structural racism in agriculture.
Farming is one of the least racially diverse professions in the nation—today, less than 2% of farmers in America are Black. From slavery, to segregationist Jim Crow laws, to USDA lending practices that discriminated against Black farmers, our country has systematically committed violence against Black people through agriculture and disenfranchised Black Americans from owning agricultural land, though there have been no shortage of promises. Centuries of chronic oppression have stigmatized what can be a fulfilling profession—one that can heal ourselves and our planet; strengthen local economies and communities; and preserve cultural traditions associated with growing and preparing food from generation to generation.
While the story of how overt and structural racism has built and continues to shape our food system is familiar to many of us, it can nonetheless be too often unacknowledged or forgotten in our collective work. Also woefully unrecognized are the contributions of Afro-Indigenous peoples to sustainable agriculture. Many of the regenerative farming methods considered innovative today—including agroforestry, diversified crop rotations, and cover cropping—were traditionally practiced by African and Indigenous cultures before the advent of our modern food system.
Here at Pasa, we commit to taking decisive action to better support and engage Black, Indigenous, and People of Color to hold positions of influence and leadership in our agricultural communities, on the staff of our agencies, on our boards, and within our programs. We cannot successfully achieve our organization’s mission without understanding how the legacy of slavery, conscious discrimination and unconscious bias, and structural racism have disconnected and displaced multicultural BIPOC communities from the land—and without taking meaningful action to address the resulting inequities.
We encourage you to join us in financially supporting organizations working to specifically lift up Black farmers and address racial inequities in the food system. What follows is just a small list of the many organizations we follow. (If you know of other organizations that we should include in this list, please let us know.)
Local and regional organizations:
We also recommend these books and podcasts that both explore racism in agriculture and the vital contributions of Black farmers.