Supporting Black Farmers for a Just Food System


The plight of black farmers stands as a stark reminder of the enduring struggle for equality in this country’s history. Structural discrimination has historically hindered the progress of black farmers in the United States. Today, as we witness the scarcity of black farmers and the loss of their once-owned lands, it is imperative that we actively work towards supporting and revitalizing this community. By understanding the historical context, embracing urban farming as a pathway to agricultural involvement, and recognizing the profound impact on both income generation and food security, we can collectively contribute to a more just and sustainable food system.

A Legacy of Discrimination

The roots of discrimination against black farmers stretch back to the days of slavery, when they were systematically denied ownership of land and basic rights. This legacy persisted through Reconstruction, Jim Crow laws, and into the 20th century. Government agencies, such as the USDA, played a troubling role in this narrative, perpetuating racial disparities by denying black farmers access to loans, subsidies, and educational resources that their white counterparts received. The landmark Pigford v. Glickman lawsuit of the late 1990s shed light on these injustices, revealing the depth of discrimination that had persisted for decades.

Diminishing Numbers and Lost Lands

As evidenced by the Census of Agriculture, the number of black farmers has dwindled significantly over the years. While their contributions to agriculture were once substantial, black farmers now account for only a small fraction of all farmers in the United States. This decline is deeply tied to the loss of land that was historically owned by black farmers. Systemic discrimination, financial challenges, and forced land dispossession have led to this stark reality. The loss of land not only impacts individual families but also disrupts generational connections to farming heritage.

Urban Farming: A Pathway to Empowerment

The Millbank Urban Farm in Raleigh, NC is a wonderful example of the potential of urban farming to serve underserved populations. In a rapidly urbanizing world, where access to rural spaces can be limited for many black individuals and communities, urban farming offers a promising avenue to re-engage with agriculture. Urban farming’s appeal lies in its ability to require less land and thrive within city limits. This accessibility is vital for reigniting interest in farming, particularly among black communities.

The Millbank Urban Farm is not just a garden; it’s a learning demonstration farm that actively practices regenerative agriculture. Situated in a low-income neighborhood surrounded by fast food restaurants and convenience stores, this urban farm will provide an essential source of fresh, healthy food for residents who otherwise have limited access to such options. Moreover, it serves as a hub for youth in the community to develop hands-on agricultural skills they might never have had the opportunity to acquire.

The farm’s mission revolves around four key tenets: Food Sovereignty, Education, Agribusiness, and Healing. By addressing these core principles, the Millbank Urban Farm not only grows produce but also nurtures community connections, imparts valuable knowledge, empowers the youth to consider careers in agribusiness, and contributes to the healing of a community grappling with food insecurity and limited opportunities. It embodies the potential of urban farming to not only provide a source of income but also to serve as a catalyst for positive change, both in individual lives and the broader urban landscape.

Addressing Food Deserts and Promoting Food Security

One of the most critical aspects of supporting black farmers and urban farming is the potential to address food deserts – areas with limited access to fresh, nutritious food. By establishing urban farms in these neighborhoods, black farmers can help alleviate food scarcity while fostering a stronger sense of community resilience. These farms can serve as educational hubs, teaching valuable skills in sustainable agriculture, nutrition, and entrepreneurship. The ripple effects of improved food security can extend beyond individuals and families, positively impacting the broader societal landscape.


The history of discrimination against black farmers in America is a painful chapter that highlights the enduring struggles for equality. However, by acknowledging this history and actively supporting black farmers, we can work towards rectifying past injustices. Embracing urban farming as a pathway to agricultural involvement not only offers economic opportunities but also addresses issues of food deserts and empowers marginalized communities. As consumers, we hold the power to foster change by consciously choosing to support black farmers and the sustainable food systems they represent.












Photos courtesy of: Mr. Kevin Bobbit and Mr. Demetrius Hunter

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