Breonna Taylor. Ahmaud Arbery. George Floyd. James Scurlock. David McAtee. Tony McDade.
It is unacceptable that these lives, and so many others, have been taken from our communities. It is unacceptable that the murder of Black people goes unpunished, and that elected officials condone these deaths with their inaction. We stand in solidarity with protests across the country and with the individuals who demand justice and accountability from law enforcement. We stand against the reactionary forces of white supremacy that deem these demands unreasonable and those who consider “Black lives matter” a debatable assertion.
In 2016, our coalition wrote a statement speaking to the urgency of directly addressing racism and white supremacy, Ending Violence Against People of Color in Food and Farming. As our coalition moves forward in centering racial equity in our work, it is clear that we can’t improve our agricultural system without confronting racism. Agriculture is not immune to the inequities that pervade our society. Our food system is rooted in stolen land and stolen labor. A just and healthy food system for all people will not be possible if we don’t reckon with legacies of harm to people of color in the U.S. and confront the systemic racism and oppression that continue.
Because building a bright and just future for agriculture is impossible while Black people continue to be murdered. Because we won’t win the farm policy our communities deserve if our lawmakers do not acknowledge the value of human life. Because the laws we win won’t matter if there is no accountability from those in power to uphold them. Because Breonna, Ahmaud, George, James, David, and Tony should have lived to enjoy what we grow.
We know these are hard times with crisis compounding crisis. We know that even in a “good season,” our farmers put in an awe-inspiring amount of work to bring food to our tables. The Coalition recognizes the immense additional labor being placed on Black farmers in this moment–emotionally, physically, and mentally. We value, support, and are here to advocate for Black farmers and all Black lives.
As a coalition, we will continue to advocate for anti-racist agricultural policy, to share resources to help our communities be more resilient, and to lead. We will amplify actions from Black-led partner organizations, as well as reflections and guidance from our staff and farmers. We call for white members of our community to join us in reckoning with this country’s long history of racial injustice, dispossession, and violence. To those looking to deepen their understanding of racism in agriculture, our Racial Equity Toolkit can be a starting place to orient you toward consciousness-raising and direct action.
To be a farmer and an organizer in our coalition is to commit to an anti-racist farming future. Black farmers deserve meaningful change and transformation. Now, yesterday, and tomorrow.
We know that even as we put our best effort forward today, we must do better. There is more work to be done. As always, we invite feedback and critique on these words and our equity work–please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
Martin Lemos, Sophie Ackoff,
and the staff of the National Young Farmers Coalition