The Rodale Institute has partnered with the Organic Farmers Association to offer a new â€śmicro-grantâ€ť for small-scale, U.S.-based, BIPOC farmers. Potential awardees are Black, indigenous or people of color who are current or aspiring organic farmers.
Also eligible for a micro-grant are BIPOC students, interns and apprentices who work in some way with an organic operation.
Awarded BIPOC Farmer Micro-grants will range from $500 to $2,000 each for winning projects. However, applicants may include multiple budget years in their applications. (Rodale will fund up to $18,000 for some projects.)
All applications are due by the end of March.
â€śAs social justice and environmental justice have really made it into the public’s consciousness more so than it has before, it’s a really good time to recognize the fact thatâ€”especially in organic [farming]â€”Black, indigenous and farmers of color are really the minority,â€ť explains Margaret Wilson, content creation and media relations specialist for The Rodale Institute.
â€śIn 2012, only 116 of 33,000 Black-owned farms were [certified] organic. That’s less than .05 percent.â€ť
More ‘Organic Acres’
â€śOur goal is really to increase organic acres throughout the country and the world,â€ť Wilson continues. â€śOne of the most effective ways to do that is to empower farmers to farm organically and regeneratively, and give them the tools they need for success.â€ť
Some BIPOC farmers may already be practicing organic or regenerative growing techniques. Still, they might not have gone through official certification. Micro-grant awardees could use their funding to help offset costs associated with organic or regenerative certification. That might mean getting help with the associated paperwork or preparing for farm inspections.
â€śThese are small grants, but we just wanted to help that group of farmers who want to [become] organic to do so in whatever way we can,â€ť she says.
Pointing to groups like Soul Fire Farm in Petersburg, New York, the Ontario, Canada-based Sundance Harvest, the Southeastern African American Farmersâ€™ Organic Network (SAAFON), and the Black Farmers Network, Wilson notes, â€śThere are a lot of groups out thereÂ working on these issues as well.â€ť
She adds, â€śWe don’t think that we are going to solve all of agriculture’s problems with this micro-grant, but we just hope to help a little bit alongside people like Naima Penniman [of Soul Fire Farm] and other Black-led organizations that are really doing a lot of great work in this space.â€ť
Other Potential Projects
What other projects could the BIPOC micro-grant fund? Some sample ideas include facility upgrades like raised bed and cold frame construction, generating marketing materials, or purchasing new signage.
â€śThis could help them to jumpstart a [new] farm, get them a little bit more training, whether it is through our consulting services or through other opportunities,â€ť she says. â€śWe’re just trying to move the needle on making a more equitable food system.â€ť
And they hope to do so for years to come. â€śThis is our first year [to offer the micro-grant], and I think the hope is to make it an annual thing and to just keep going as long as we have the funds for it which, hopefully, will be quite a long time,â€ť Wilson says.
For Veterans, Healthcare Workers
The Rodale Instutute also has a Veteran Farmer Training Program which is specifically geared toward military veterans who are thinking about careers in organic agriculture. â€śWe have a lot of [veterans] who come,” Wilson says. “They say, ‘We just didn’t know what our next step was and thought we would give this a shot.’â€ť
The immersive program runs from two to four months at one of Rodale’s three Pennsylvania training sites. Participants earn pay and also get a housing stipend.
Rodale also now offers a Health From the Soil Up Fellowship, open to various healthcare professionals. These include â€śphysicians, advanced practice health practitioners, nutritionists, dentists, health researchers, public health experts, health administrators and policy makers.â€ť
â€śHealth from the Soil Up is a fellowship that we’re doing in collaboration with Dr. Daphne Miller who wrote the book, Farmacology,â€ť Wilson explains. â€śIt’s a special training program in collaboration with some medical schools and other public health organizations.
“It’ll be a long-term educational opportunity for them to learn about soil health and how it affects human health, the gut microbiome, and the relationship between that and the food that we eat.â€ť
And to help participants better understand how organic agriculture works in practice? The fellowship also will include two two-week, hands-on sessions at The Rodale Institute’s certified organic farm headquarters.