We at NOFA-VT and VOF stand in solidarity with the Movement for Black Lives.
We are in solidarity with the uprisings resulting from the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many more, and mourn the countless lives lost and currently threatened by racist violence in the United States. We will not be passive or silent about our support and commitment to the work of dismantling racism and white supremacy. We all have a role to play.
In particular, we stand committed to our shared work of dismantling the systemic racism endemic to our country within the food system. We acknowledge that racism, genocide, and oppression formed the very beginnings of US agriculture, including the theft of land from indigenous people and the forced labor through the enslavement of people of color. These injustices were enabled by institutional violence and compounded by generations of slavery. The system has never addressed nor made reparations for this history, and remains rife with racism today.
We recognize that moving toward racial equity requires an understanding and acknowledgement of historical and ongoing racial inequities, and a commitment to actions challenging those inequities. It is our responsibility as an organic farming organization to acknowledge that the majority of people using organic farming practices around the world are people of color, and that the organic farming movement in the United States has historically centered white voices to the exclusion of Black and Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) farmers.
NOFA-VT’s mission is to build an economically viable, ecologically sound and socially just Vermont agricultural system that benefits all living things. In order to build the future we yearn for, we must center anti-racism in all our efforts.
A year and a half ago we added social justice to our mission. We have been taking steps since then to work for equity. The recent uprisings and the Movement for Black Lives have helped make us aware of how much more work we have in front of us. For the sake of transparency and as an invitation to our community to help hold us accountable, we are sharing some of the action steps we have initiated below:
- Creating space for learning about racism and anti-racism actions for our staff as a regular feature of our shared work
- Working to understand how whiteness has excluded people of color from participating in our community, and building processes and structures to better welcome all (such as free or reduced cost to our workshops, conferences, and programs to people of color; building culturally relevant programming; hiring speakers, consultants, farmers, and teachers of color)
- Increasing the amount of resources we devote to our food equity work
- Joining coalitions and building relationships with BIPOC-led organizations and centering their visions and needs in our work plans, including sharing resources, funding, and policy goals
- Engaging in a robust diversity, equity and inclusion process as an organization
We are a majority white organization and community. We must grapple with the ways in which our whiteness contributes to systemic racism, and start to dismantle these patterns. It is our responsibility as a mission-driven organization to fight for an organic future that includes and supports BIPOC farmers, acknowledges their many contributions to the organic farming movement, and ensures organic, local food access for all.
This moment is a deeply challenging one for our nation, but NOFA-VT is committed to learning, engaging, and moving towards a just future.
As mentioned above, we have been educating ourselves on what anti-racism can look like in our work at NOFA-VT. Below are some of the resources we have found exceptionally useful for our own process, and we’d like to share them with our community. This list is by no means exhaustive, but offers some resources and next steps to begin to more deeply engage, heal, and act collectively towards a hopeful future:
- Listen to Leah Penniman, author of ‘Farming While Black’, and NOFA-VT 2019 Winter Conference keynote speaker. She recently gave an interview on three pillars of anti-racism work: education, reparations, and centering voices of Black, Indigenous and/or People of Color (BIPOC), which provides a solid framework from which to engage. (Next step: support the groundbreaking work of Soul Fire Farm, where Penniman and others farm to end racism in the food system.)
- Read Penniman’s article articulating four steps to dismantle racism in the food system.
- Read from the library of racial food equity articles compiled by Food Solutions New England. (Next step: set a calendar reminder to sign up for next year’s “Racial Equity Habit-Building Challenge.”)
- Get familiar with the experiences of the over a thousand Vermont farmworkers who support our state’s dairy industry and do not hold legal status, yet provide essential labor. (Next step: support direct payments for those people left out of stimulus funds by calling your legislators and donating here.)
- Learn about the history of the Abenaki community’s experience being forced off their homeland, as well as their contemporary reality and some inspiring work they’re doing to grow and share native crops. (Next step: check an Abenaki calendar of events to listen and learn in person.)
- Zoom out to learn about our national history of preventing land access for farmers of color. (Next step: support the Northeast Farmers of Land Trust, who are ‘working towards a collective vision of advancing land and food sovereignty in the northeast region through permanent and secure land tenure for POC farmers and land stewards’.)
- Learn about Clemmons Family Farm, a historic, African-American owned farm in Charlotte, VT, which also runs an arts nonprofit celebrating art from the African diaspora, recently received a grant to engage artists in teaching about racism, slavery, and more to Vermont youth. Support their critical work.
- Read Chris Newman’s work. As a Black and Indigenous farmer in the D.C. area, Chris has written much on racism in the food system. Start learning from him here.
- Stand with the Young Farmers Coalition and the National Black Farmers Association as they speak up and work together to dismantle racism in agriculture.
- Listen to Soul Fire Farm’s weekly webinar called “Ask a Sista Farmer,” which you can find on their Facebook Page.
- Read the brilliant work ‘Freedom Farmers’ by Monica White, exploring ‘agricultural resistance and the Black Freedom Movement.’