In a nation built on agriculture, why so few minority farmers?

By | May 18, 2017

We have a farming tradition in this country, a tradition that spans all races and communities. One need only drive around the city to see numerous community and private gardens in every neighborhood. This tradition extends to the African-American community, the Latino, Asian and the refugee communities. I know; as a scientist who enjoys identifying trees, shrubs and herbs by their scientific names, I see these things. I owe my interest to my grandmother, a child of farmers, who migrated north from Virginia in the 1940s. She nurtured the seed of my childhood curiosity over 12 summers of tutelage in a vegetable garden. That curiosity grew into passion and academic pursuit.

Which prompts the question, where are all the minority farmers? I haven’t seen any along Route 20 or 104. Nationally, a laudable movement with real dollars and good intentions is taking root in urban centers, to eliminate food deserts, and provide access to fresh produce to urban communities. Growing Power in Milwaukee, headed by MacArthur Fellowship recipient Will Allen, teaches agriculture and aquaculture to an under-served minority population. D-Town Farm in Detroit provides workshops and garden plots to its community members, to grow food and buy fresh. Here in Syracuse, Brady Urban Farm, with its well-managed city plot, is helping to bring knowledge and nutrition to our community.

But where are the African-American farmers with combines and thousands of acres? Where are the Latino owned apple-orchards? Where are the Japanese, Korean, Native American corn farmer, rice farmer, vineyard owner? Our nation is wildly diverse. Even the Bible Belt is becoming more diverse by the day, a reality with very real, very frightening consequences. Just look at what happened in Kansas last February; an East Asian man, Srinivas Kuchibhotla, was shot dead in a bar by a man telling him to “get out of my country.” (Syracuse Post-Standard)

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