State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball today announced the report from the members of the Diversity and Racial Equity Workgroup. The Workgroup is made up of New York State farmers, advocates, and other institutional and industry stakeholders representing a wide swath of the state’s agricultural community. Over the last year, the group collaborated to provide recommendations to the Department on actions to foster the development of a more equitable agricultural industry and empower Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) farmers across New York.
Commissioner Ball said, “The need for a focused strategy to increase, sustain, and diversify farming and land access across the country is more urgent now than ever, including in New York. The joint expertise and unique experiences of the Diversity and Racial Equity Workgroup members will help us to take steps toward a stronger, more resilient, and more equitable agricultural community in New York State.”
In late 2019 and through 2020, the Department held several listening sessions on diversity and racial equity in New York agriculture with stakeholders from across the state. These powerful conversations became the catalyst for the State’s call for action to address racial disparity in agriculture and the creation of the Diversity and Racial Equity Workgroup.
Officially formed in November 2020, the Diversity and Racial Equity Workgroup met six times through March 2021. Its more than two dozen members worked to develop recommendations that would outline a path forward to foster diversity and racial equity in agriculture. The Workgroup’s experiences, contributions, and findings are the basis of the Diversity and Racial Equity Working Group Report, which was submitted to the governor. The plan focuses on four key areas:
- Access to Infrastructure and Resources
- Access to Education and Training
- Access to Capital
- Access to Land
The 21 recommendations detailed in the report were developed in collaboration with BIPOC leaders who have been advocating, developing solutions, and building the groundwork for this report for decades. Read the full report.
The Workgroup builds on New York State’s long history of leadership in diversity and racial equity initiatives, including leading efforts to address the underrepresentation of minority groups in many industries and to dismantle barriers to social and economic mobility.
Julian Mangano, owner of Della Terra Farm and Workgroup member, said, “It is imperative that there is sustained effort put towards building and maintaining equity in land access and ownership across New York State. It is equally important for there to be consistent efforts to include agricultural education at the K-12 level, which will bring young people into the aging agricultural workforce. Creating pipelines for people of color to own their own land and farm business will provide an opportunity for the accumulation of generational wealth. Racial equity in New York State agriculture will also assist in building a more localized, resilient, and sustainable food system.”
Allison DeHonney, CEO of Urban Fruits & Veggies LLC/Buffalo GoGreen Inc. and Workgroup member, said, “It was a great honor to participate in the Diversity and Racial Equity Workgroup, for several reasons but mostly to have a voice in how the state plans for the future of agriculture and our local food system. We must have an implementation plan that is inclusive and diverse. Commissioner Ball and his staff provided the space to explore possibilities with sound solutions on how this can be done. I look forward to seeing the implementation of our plan and continuing to participate in this work in the coming years.”
Qiana Mickie, Founding Principal of the Food Systems & Equity Consultancy QJM Multiprise and Workgroup member, said, “I am encouraged by the efforts of Commissioner Ball and the NYSAGM staff to make the necessary strides towards addressing the racial and economic inequities within our regional food/farm systems. Access to land, capital, and other critical resources remain major barriers for Black, Brown, and Indigenous farmers in our state. I feel the Diversity and Racial Equity Workgroup was a great step forward in amplifying the issues and I am glad to have been a part of this group. It is my hope that the State of New York continues to build off of our recommendations within the Workgroup’s plan and support the longstanding work of unheralded farmers of color in order to make our agricultural system more equitable.”
The Department of Agriculture and Markets, through its various divisions and programs, promotes New York agriculture and its high-quality and diverse products, fosters agricultural environmental stewardship, and safeguards the state’s food supply, land, and livestock to ensure the viability and growth of New York’s agriculture industries. The Department operates the Great New York State Fair, and administers the Taste NY initiative and New York State Grown and Certified program. Follow the Department on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.