March 2021 Newsletter: Organizing in a time of hope and mourning


Hi there,

This spring, we find ourselves organizing for a just and sustainable farm future in a state of dissonance. We are emotionally caught between grieving the horrid anti-Asian shootings around Atlanta in a time when anti-Asian violence is rising, and the mass shooting in Boulder, and the hope we are feeling brought about by auspicious federal and state legislation thanks to forceful, collective grassroots efforts.

Our hearts ache for the victims and their families. We know the shootings around Atlanta extend a long history of anti-Asian beliefs and violence in this country. From the Chinese Exclusion Act of the late 1800s to dehumanizing images of Asians used in war propaganda. From Breakfast at Tiffany’s to MASH, Asians have been depicted as clueless and suspicious, helpless and sneaky, passive and violent, exotic and a faceless horde, rapacious and the model minority. Such extremes lead to distrust, suspicion, mockery, and of course, violence.

Everyone deserves safety, and it’s too often in this country that communities of color are not safe at home, at work, and in public spaces. As an advocacy organization, we have a responsibility to address the most challenging systemic issues facing young farmers, and particularly young farmers of color across the country. This includes dismantling the culture of white supremacy that pervades the policies that shape our food system.

Numbness and paralysis are valid forms of self-protection against violence. But for the sake of the next generation of farmers, it cannot prevent us from moving our work forward, and from putting faith in our major wins and the inspiring efforts of our peers.

We want to pause to invite you to a moment of distanced-but-shared hope. On March 8th, 2021 President Biden’s stimulus package passed with $5 billion set aside for the BIPOC farming and ranching community. The money will support debt relief but also grants, training, education and land access.

It is true that $5 billion isn’t enough to address the harm done to BIPOC communities in agriculture, and that without a more solid and anti-racist technical services, $5 billion won’t keep the next generation of BIPOC farmers on the land and in service to their communities. But friends, we got the federal government to recognize racial equity explicitly and acknowledge the need for direct financial support for farmers of color. That’s something that our ancestors would have embraced, that’s something that we should celebrate, and that’s something for the next generation to point towards to stand stronger.

While we’re taking a minute for hope, we’d like to encourage you to learn more about the Vermont’s H.R. 273, “An act relating to promoting racial and social equity in land access and property ownership.” The bill, introduced in the Vermont legislature on February 17th, is a leading-edge example of racial justice and reparations language crafted for state policy. One of the groups behind the Vermont effort, Every Town, also has a crowdfunded grassroots campaign for land justice–please support and encourage other to donate here.

Thank you for being in community and supporting a bright and just future for agriculture through these complex times. Please read on for other timely news and updates from the Coalition.

Federal Policy Updates

On March 13, the Senate passed the American Rescue Plan. The bill includes billions of dollars to bolster the food and agriculture supply chain; expansion of food assistance for hungry families; historic debt relief for BIPOC farmers; and funds for USDA to create a racial equity commission. While we applaud this progress, any future COVID-19 relief bill must ensure that all immigrants are eligible for stimulus checks and have access to health care, regardless of their immigration status, and also must provide a pathway to U.S. citizenship. We also hope that future pandemic relief packages will include meaningful student debt relief.

Farm workers have worked on the frontlines of the pandemic over the past year to feed our country while putting their health at great risk. Now, the first crucial step in their path to legal status and citizenship was passed by the House of Representatives through the Farm Workforce Modernization Act. Thank you to the farmer advocates and partners who made this possible, including Representatives Zoe Lofgren and Dan Newhouse for their work passing this important bill.

While we continue to advocate on the Hill, support equitable COVID relief for farmers who are undocumented by donating to our crowdfunded Farmer Solidarity Fund (see below) and you can sign up here to receive more updates on opportunities to be an young farmer advocate for immigrant and workers’ rights.

We would also like to congratulate former New Mexico congresswoman Deb Haaland on her historic appointment as our nation’s first Native American Secretary of the Interior!

 

Photo via medium.com

Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network Updates 

The mental health of our farming communities has suffered during COVID-19 according to a survey commissioned by the American Farm Bureau FederationTwo out of three farmers and farm workers say the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted their mental health. They are 10% more likely than other rural adults to have experienced feeling nervous, anxious, or on edge during the pandemic (65% vs 55%) and 7% more likely (52% vs. 45%) to say stress and mental health have become more of a problem in their community in the past year. 87% of farmers and farmworkers say it is important to reduce stigma about mental health in the agriculture community.

Young Farmers is part of a national project to increase mental health support to our farming communities and to reduce the stigma of seeking mental health services. Learn about the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network in the Northeast (FRSAN-NE) here. You can find mental health and wellness resources by searching Farm Aid’s Farmer Resource Network and calling Farm Aid’s Farmer Hotline at 1-800-FARM-AID.

 

Farmer Solidarity Fund 

We are collecting donations that will be distributed through partner organizations to undocumented farmers who have not been able to access pandemic relief through a Farmer Solidarity Fund. And we are past the $10,000 mark! Please consider donating today to help us reach our $25,000 goal.

 

Land Campaign and Land Notes 

Our land campaign is launching a new way to stay in touch — Land Dispatches. We’ll deliver land-specific news and engagement opportunities to your inbox roughly once a month. Sign up here and spread the word to your networks.

Want to get involved in changing land policy? Let’s talk. Young Farmers is building a bold, grassroots-led land campaign and we want to work with you and 2-3 other farmers, ranchers, or supporters in your community for land justice at the local level. We’ll collaborate with you to organize a one- to two-hour land advocacy training. The trainings will be a space for sharing land policy ideas and advocacy strategies, and brainstorming a path forward that matches the specific needs of your chapter and region. Contact holly@youngfarmers.org if interested.

We’re Hiring!

Young Farmers seeks a Graphic and Web Designer to support our national communications, publications, social media outreach, and website management. We are looking for a talented and creative designer to help us share the stories of young farmers, particularly farmers of color, with the general public, policy makers, funders, and consumers, through fresh and innovative graphic design and branding. The Designer will also help us manage our website, youngfarmers.org, and ideally will also have web development and basic coding experience. Applications are open through March 31, 2021.

Learn more and apply here.

 

Welcome our New Staff Members!

A warm welcome to two new Young Farmers’ staff members, Stephanie Fenty, our Culture and Operations Manager, and Anita Adalja, our Food Safety Coordinator.

Now based in Miami, Stephanie has experience ranging from administration, fundraising, communications, and organizational operations to providing the support and infrastructure for farmer training programs, starting a farmers market, and organizing a national campaign celebrating farmers market operators.

Anita joins the Coalition with a wide range of food system work including farming for 10 years in VA, PA, NY, DC, CA, and NM, managing production and distribution at a cooperative food hub, developing curriculum and training for a state-wide farm food safety program in NM, and improving food access as a trained social worker (which initially brought her into farming).

Read more about Stephanie and Anita on our team page.

 

In solidarity,

The Staff of the National Young Farmers Coalition

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