Project: Photo essay book
Relationship with Farm Credit: National Contributions Partner
While the majority of farmers in America are white, more than 75,000 of our country’s farmers are Black, Asian, Latino and Native American. One young woman, a farmer of color herself, has initiated a program to share these farmers’ experiences – the challenges, the successes, the history and the future goals.
“I want to share the voices of these farmers with the general public and help them learn about the diversity of the farmers who grow their food,” says Natasha Bowens, who founded the Color of Food in 2010. The project will take her across the country as she visits with more than 50 individual farming operations over a six month journey, taking numerous photos and copious notes that she will later develop into a photo essay book.
Natasha herself became a farmer just a few years ago, a decision that arose out of her desire to connect with the land and give back to her community. Looking to connect with a broader audience, she started a blog, Brown.Girl.Farming, and in 2010 also began developing an online directory of farmers of color to help them connect with each other. The Color of Food grew out of her desire to explore the history and experience of farmers of color throughout the U.S., a goal that has expanded to focus as much on the future as the past.
“I want to explore where we came from, but also where we’re going,” she says. “More, though, I want to share the successes that these predominantly small farmers have achieved, many of whom are sustaining themselves on the farm with no government support or financing.”
The farmers she’s visited vary widely in age and experience. She’s met a 93-year-old black man who remembers his family working as sharecroppers and him later refusing the government’s offer of “40-acres and a mule” in favor of buying his own land to start a farming operation. She’s visited with a couple displaced by Hurricane Katrina who have since established a successful poultry operation, despite having no agricultural background. She’s watched a Native American elder teach her granddaughter how to plant grain. “I’m finding beautiful, woven stories of family, tradition, culture and history that are relevant to today’s farmer and today’s consumer,” she says.
While the struggles of farmers of color will be a natural theme, she also wants to bring to light the progress that’s been made and inspire the next generation of aspiring farmers of color.
“There’s a stigma attached to farming among people of color in America because of our history with agriculture in this country,” Natasha says. “By sharing positive stories of our history, of our achievements and of the successful, self-sustaining farming businesses being created by people of color, I hope to inspire the next generation to embrace, or at least consider, agricultural pursuits. With the aging farming population, we’re going to need them!”