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Dr. Jennifer Taylor is the Vice President of IFOAM North America and an organic farmer in rural Georgia. She is an advocate for underserved small farm populations, indigenous farmers, black farmers, farmers of colour and their communities. She promotes inclusiveness, racial equity, and social justice strategies that enable participatory capacity building, thrive-ability and wellbeing for all human beings.

In the United States, the largest percentage of farms are owned and operated by white farmers (approximately 95%), while indigenous farmers, black farmers, Asian and Hispanic farmers make up about 5% of the farming populations.

There is a critical need for the United States organic movement to extend the education, training, and technical assistance necessary to grow the benefits of organic agriculture to all people, especially inclusive of small-scale farmers within communities of indigenous, black, and farmers of color.

A key issue within global agricultural research and development is the need to positively focus on the sustainable development of small farmers, resource poor farmers and their families.

Generally, this includes indigenous farmers, black farmers, and farmers of color. Though these group makes up to 80% of the world’s farmers, often they have not had equal access and participation in programs and training designed to assist large producers and agribusinesses. This lack of inclusion and racial equity has impacted the growth, development and engagement of underserved farming populations and their communities.

Jennifer at an organic growers’ market © Rowland Publishing, Inc

IFOAM Organics International promotes sustainable organic farming systems and resilient organic and agroecology food systems across Asia, Latin America, Africa, and North America with a structural set of social policies through IFOAM’s Principles of Organic Agriculture. These policies support organic agroecology farm practices that promote the wellbeing of farm land, farmers, farm workers and their communities, while promoting inclusion, racial equality and food justice around the world. The IFOAM message is even more critical today as we face the challenges of the corona virus pandemic crises and social distancing protocols. We are now re-examining our work, outreach, and our own selves in light of the relevancy of the Black Lives Matter social movement, and its impact and message are being felt around the world by farmers of color.

These days, strategies and policies that encourage and enable a stronger, inclusive, clean and healthy agriculture and food systems that ensure access —  all are being examined by multiple levels of local and global civil societies and government.

Strawberries on Lola’s Organic Farm © Lola’s Organic Farm

I am the granddaughter of a sharecropper. I have found many indigenous and black leaders in agriculture who have given me encouragement along the way. My grandmother, however, provided me with the kind of patience and guidance that has helped me in my agricultural vocation and livelihood.

My grandmother started out early in her life as a sharecropper.  She was given an opportunity to buy land and became a land owner and farmer on her own land in a small, rural southern Georgia community.

She had the vision to make a life-impacting change for her family. Today, my husband and I continue the joy and love for the land that my grandmother showed us as she farmed. On our certified organic farm we grow organic vegetables, fruits, and cover crops. From our small organic farm, we hold participatory capacity building sessions/farmer-learning meetings on the benefits of organic agriculture, seed saving, vermiculture, the principles of organic agriculture, along with agroecology and organic farming systems. Farmers, gardeners, Rural Development and Agencies from all around have come to see and learn at our low tech, small-scale, organic certified farm, owned by indigenous black farmers. We are the only certified organic farm in our county, and the first in our county and surrounding counties.

At Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, I am Associate Professor and coordinator of small farm programs. The StateWide Small Farm Program is an active participatory capacity building sustainable development program that identifies needs, barriers/hindrances and works together to develop possible solutions; provides relevant participatory education, technical assistance, and trainings on organic farming systems, alternative market development and wellbeing. We help enhance small farm sustainability to enable thriving sustainable development for underserved farming populations.

Jennifer accepting her 2019 Organic Pioneer Award from Rodale Institute © Rodale Institute

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals provide important guidelines or pathways for implementing a more equitable, inclusive, and sustainable local and global transformation towards enabling integrative, collaborative and participatory agricultural, societal, and wellbeing changes to build inclusive racial equity without discrimination.

We have an opportunity to build better participatory organic agroecology agriculture/food and wellbeing systems, which specifically shares resources, information and knowledge that supports hands-on training and technical assistance to small-scale and resource poor farmers, indigenous farmers, black farmers, and farmers of color and their communities. This is how we can choose to grow organic agriculture outside of our local neighborhoods and communities. This is how we can work together to gain the global impacts of organic agroecology benefits in all environments and communities. This is how we must choose to grow as an organic farming movement around the world. This is how we can WORK together to grow a good life with farming opportunities that enable all human beings.

There is a critical need for inclusion, racial equity, and social justice in the United States and in our world. We have the responsibility to engage in participatory dialogs and participatory solutions that support the efforts of indigenous farmers, black farmers, and farmers of color and their communities.

Within our community we have champions advocating for inclusion, racial equity, and social justice, the successes and benefits of organic agroecology farming systems, and the important role of indigenous farmers, black farmers and farmers of color . . . small-scale farmers and their communities.

Learn more about Lola’s Organic Farm