“When I’m touching the soil, it just gives me freedom,” Samantha Foxx,
owner of Mother’s Finest Family Urban Farms in North Carolina.
How We Got Here: Black Farmers in North Carolina
Black and Indigenous communities have a long history of implementing regenerative agricultural practices. These communities, however, face some of the highest barriers to keeping access to their land, much less these practices. The US has had systemic and intentional historical barriers that still have purchase today: legal and social barriers to land ownership, discrimination from banks and the government for loans, credits, and subsidies, a legal system tilted toward White farmers, prejudicial competition from large White-owned farms, and biased lack of access to markets, knowledge, and technical support.
Historically, Black farmers held almost 25% of farms in North Carolina; now it’s three percent – less than 1,500 farms with women leading around 530 of them. The reasons and the impact on Black Farmers are well-documented by the Equal Justice Initiative here and The Atlantic here.
At the same time, with less than two percent of U.S. land farmed as organic and even less with regenerative or restorative practices, industrial agriculture contributes to an overwhelming amount of climate emissions, habitat loss, soil erosion, and water, land, and air pollution – impacting frontline farming communities.
N4J’s Farmer Inclusion Program seeks to increase access to resources and strengthen, particularly Black and Indigenous but also other farmers of color, climate resilience through social justice approaches and a focus on regenerative agriculture. You can learn more about our Farmer Inclusion program here.
We Are Each Other's Harvest
According to the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, as of January 2020, there were 47 Black-owned farmers’ markets in North Carolina with more on the way.Here are five Black-owned farmers’ markets worth highlighting, in their own words:
- Tall Grass Food Box (Durham, Raleigh, Chapel Hill, Cary) – Tall Grass Food Box is a platform to support and encourage the sustainability of Black farmers, by increasing their visibility and securing space for them in the local marketplace. In a time when small businesses have become even more vulnerable, it is important that we double down in our support of Black farmers. In this vein, we seek to build a capacity for self-determination within our local food systems. Every other week we will pull together fresh produce from Black Farmers across NC and put it together in a box for you to pick up. Each box has enough to feed 1-2 people or an individual who cooks 3 or more times a week.
- Perkins Orchard (Durham) – 52 years of fresh. A place to come and unwind from the everyday hustle of the Triangle. Early in the morning or after rush hour we are the only such place open 7 days a week from 9:00 am – 8:00 pm. We offer seating & areas to roam while enjoying your lunch or some of our delicious fruit edibles. We have over 300 farms mostly in North Carolina & surrounding states alongside our vast fruit orchard around our house hence the name Perkins Orchard! The fact that most of the produce sits in the same environment it grows in makes it all sweeter! We are your one-stop shop for local eggs, cheese, meats, jar goods, honey, greens, herbs, flowers, fruits, vegetables, pumpkins, Christmas trees, and so much more.
- Black Farmer’s Market (Durham, Raleigh)- Your Blackness is welcome here. There’s no doubt that eating fresh produce can enhance your health. We all need food to survive. Let’s work together to change the perception that eating healthy is only a luxury for some. The Black Farmers’ Market is an inclusive, fun, and community-centered marketplace. Shopping at the Black Farmers’ Market allows you to not only keep dollars circulating in our community but it gives you opportunity to support Black farmers. Black farmers were once the heart of our foodways. It’s time to reshape our agricultural systems, starting by protecting and supporting them.
- Black Church Food Security Network (based in Baltimore, MD, with programs in NC and elsewhere) – We are a network of Black churches organized to advance health, wealth, and power for our people. We help Black churches use their assets to establish gardens on their land, host miniature farmers’ markets and buy wholesale from Black farmers.
- The Food Justice for All Farmers Market (Greensboro) – Its goal is to highlight Black farmers and farmers of color as well as serve fresh produce to underserved communities. “We just want to promote and to help strengthen the commerce and to help save their family farms and then to bring awareness,” said Executive Director of the Guilford Urban Farming Initiative Paula Sieber. Vanecia Boone owns Herbin Herbals and sells medicinal herbs. She said people need to know that Black farmers still exist. We farm, we are agriculturalists, we grow food,” she said. “This is what we do and I think we’ve gotten really far away from our actual truth of who we are. I think the Black farmers market really brings that back around full circle.”
What You Can Do
To support these efforts, consider donating to the market(s) of your choice. This will help to grow these markets, increase the number of farmers involved, and expand opportunities to help Black consumers who can’t get to them.