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Black Farmers Index started as a solutions-based journalism project launched by Ark Republic on April 14, 2020 as a way to provide a small list of Black farmers to address the rising issues of food security during the global pandemic.
Initially, the list was 150 farmers. Today we have over 1,000 row crop farmers, ranchers, poultry farmers, vegetable and fruit producers, grains and nut harvesters, beekeepers, fisherfolk, oystermen, foresters, foragers, vinters and more.
How did we grow? Because of the overwhelming response from the public during the George Floyd protests, when Juneteenth came along, there was an explosion of people across racial and social lines interested in supported Black growers. Quickly, the Index organically evolved into its own identity.
In July 2020, we became a non-profit organization. In November 2021, we were granted 501 c3 status.
Today we focus on several main areas:
1. Expanding the directory
2. Highlighting Black agriculturalists
3. Bringing business to our Index members
4. Providing information to farmers
5. Educating farmers and the public
6. Hosting events connecting growers to consumers
7. Researching and writing reports on Black farmers
March 2020 | Initiated research for Black Farmers Index
April 2020 | Published first listing of Black Farmers as a project from Ark Republic
June 2020 | Launched official website and social media handles
July 2020 | Established as a non-profit entity
December 2020 | Began fundraising partnership with Ark Republic; Month-long fundraiser
December 2020 | First installment of Black Farmer and a Chef series featuring R&R Farms and Bourne Brilliant and prepared by Chef Khari Hairston-El of Jaja Bakery who made cheesecake both dairy and vegan
December 2020 | Second installment of Black Farmer and a Chef series featuring Apex Seafood Market, Summers Prep, Earth & Field Salt Co. and Chef Cassandra Loftlin who made fish and grits, charcuterie board, trout cream cheese, and popsicles
May 2021 | Founder Kaia Shivers’ work on BFI featured in NYU Alumni Magazine
June 2021 | Featured in San Diego Union-Tribune
August 2021 | Awarded SARE grant
November 2021 | 501 c3 status granted
November 2021 | Launched Vittles: Sown with Soul, a curated selection of premium foods from Black Farmers
May 2022 | Awarded SARE grant
June 2022 | Facilitated "Soil to Shelf" series
August 2022 | Entered into partnership with Organic Trade Association
The Back Story
Food is the backbone of any society. During the global Covid-19 crisis, food as the lifeline of the world has become more evident. But when online news outlet, Ark Republic saw growing food insecurities in the US, they wanted to offer a solution.
During Ark Republic’s reporting and analysis from China to Europe, they predicted that food security would be one of the most critical issues in the US. When they discovered the fast-growing food security issues in the country, they wanted to offer a solution rather than continue to report on the problems. One of their answers was to compile a list of Black farmers who could sell directly to consumers immediately.
They selected Black farmers due to an ongoing history of them experiencing the roughest hardships during every economic crisis in the US. In general, Blacks have undergone generations of systemic racism and domestic terror, but agrarian Black communities were the first, and longest to know the various types of economic assault and lack of security, post-Emancipation. In knowing that, we concluded that the most vulnerable and exploited group in the farming industry should be used.
From a practical view, Black farmers understand how to carry out some of the most challenging work with little resources. With the current state of the US, we are in dire need of that type of mastery of knowledge. As a result, Ark Republic reached out to farming networks on several social media platforms, spoke to farmers directly, and conducted extensive research for two weeks.
In the first wave of data gathering, they discovered a grave lack of information on Black farms and farmers, which proved to be difficult for our project. According to the Department of Agriculture, in 2017, there were 3.2 million white farmers, but only 45,508 Black-owned farms. Along with their under-representation and financial woes, we discovered that many Black farmers fall within the Baby Boomers generation and have limited access to technology or effective digital literacy skills. Nonetheless, the response was overwhelming by a younger wave of the Black agrarian community who insisted to compile data for them.
Due to the strong response, Black Farmers Index was birthed as it's own entity. It became a non-profit organization in July 2020. Now it is a sister organization and fiscal sponsor to Ark Republic.
In the Black Farmer’s Index, we offer a region-by-region listing of Black farms. The data is ever-growing, so if you have a farmer to add, we welcome the addition.
Amara Brown, Community Engagement
Duane Reed, Data Entry
Ayanna Shivers, MPH, Researcher
Kaia Shivers, Ph.D. Founder of Black Farmers Index + Ark Republic Editor-in-Chief
Interns + Apprentices
Kjersten Jacson Shivers, Apprentice (Spring/Summer 2021)
Asenath Alexander (Spring 2021)
Jules Brown, Jr., Intern (Summer 2020 + 2022)
Ailani Brown, Intern (Spring 2021)
Sebastian Pratts (Summer 2022)
Water the seeds to nurture our needs. What your donation fuels.
Black Farmers Index and Ark Republic solidified a partnership to split our donations. Both of our organizations are Black-woman founded and Black-women led. Your donation today goes to two powerful, creative social ventures.
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