A Proposal By The African American Environmentalist Association
To Establish A
SUSTAINABLE ORGANIC FARMING PROJECT
"To Effectively Demonstrate the Transition of Proven Environmentally Friendly Agricultural Techniques into Large Scale Commercial Farming Enterprises Operated by African American and Small Farmers.”
The Sustainable Organic Farming Project (OFP) is intended to promote the economic viability of organic farming and solar powered irrigation as an appropriate method and technology for increasing participation by African American and small farmers in the farming sector. OFP will also provide a model for promoting environmental management and improved nutrition in urban communities.
African Americans, by and large, lack pride and appreciation in agriculture and therefore sustainable organic agriculture because of negative experiences with slavery and sharecropping. Farming is looked upon as a form of slavery. The economic hardship of African American and small family farmers also discourages blacks from this occupation. The promise of northern freedom and opportunities for work in urban industrial jobs caused a mass migration of African Americans to towns and cities. This mass migration has resulted in an alarming loss of black farmers and land. It has resulted in an elderly population physically unable and a younger generation mentally unwilling to work the farm.
In the U.S.A. today, African Americans are losing land at a rate of approximately 1,000 acres per day or 350,000 acres per year. In 1910, there were approximately 100,000 black farmers owning 15 million acres. In 1980, there were less than 7 million acres. In 1920, 14% of all farmers were black. Today African American farmers represent less than 1% of all farmers. The latest agriculture census shows that nearly 1/3 of the nation's black farmers went out of business between 1982 and 1987. A 1982 report by the U.S. Civil Rights Commission states, at the present rate, there will be no black farmers by the year 2,000.
In addition to the social and historical factors contributing to African American land loss is the fact that modern farming contributes to serious environmental problems, be it loss of wetlands, poisonous pesticides, herbicides, artificial fertilizers, eroding land, and contaminated groundwater. Sustainable organic farming, the creation of alternative markets and the application of appropriate technologies could stop the decline of African American and small farmers. Moreover, sustainable organic agriculture provides a viable, environmentally friendly alternative to the agricultural practices of petrochemical farm conglomerates.
The decline of African American and small farmers has also been caused by the expansion of farm size, the financial outlays required to make farm production economically efficient, the dependence on expensive chemical treatments and over-mechanization of the farming operation. In short, African Americans and small farmers will participate in farming when: it is a profitable business enterprise, provides good jobs and upward mobility, is regarded as a high esteem occupation, and is a safe working environment. A comprehensive campaign is needed for the economic, environmental and social revitalization of the African American and small farmer.
The Sustainable Organic Farming Project will provide a technology-based means of promoting the efficient use of natural resources, provide an opportunity for environmentally sound economic self-sufficiency, and ensure the preservation and expansion of African American and small farmers. The Sustainable OFP will also promote protection of the environment, particularly surface water, groundwater, and soil conservation. The Sustainable OFP project will be implemented in three (3) phases:
1) Design and Pilot Project Initiation,
2) Pilot Project Expansion--Commercialization Design, and
The African American Environmentalist Association will work with historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and other organizations with organic farming expertise. AAEA will initially target the Southeast for Sustainable OFP implementation.
The Sustainable Organic Farming Project will be implemented in three phases:
1. Design and Pilot Project Initiation
A Design Team who will have responsibility for formulating goals and timetables for project performance milestones will deliver the design phase of OFP. The team draft plan will provide for effective operation, communication and accountability during the life cycle of the project. This plan will specify the operational components of the OFP Pilot Project, Pilot Project Expansion and Commercialization. The design phase will have three main components:
[a] Draft Plan
[b] Design Review and Validation
[c] Initiate Research for Pilot Project/Expansion
Once the design plan outline has been completed, a research team will begin assembling methodology, technical specifications, staffing descriptions, materials list, and regulatory policy considerations necessary for the OFP Pilot Project.
2. Pilot Project Expansion and Commercialization Design
AAEA will initiate the Sustainable Organic Farming Pilot Project at an HBCU using the OFP model design and information from existing organic farming models. For instance, the Accokeek Foundation, located in Accokeek, Maryland, has gained experience in the (organic farming environment)and solar/irrigation technology utilization by operating an five (5) acre organic farm site, which uses a solar powered pump to draw water from the Potomac River for irrigation.
>The African American Environmentalist Association will serve as the nucleus of the OFP. Alliances to examine econometric models for the organic farming pilot project and future local, state, regional, national and international organic farming commercialization will be formed by the AAEA. Jobs to be done will include examining the environmental implications of organic farming using the pilot project methods and technologies. AAEA will compare the effects of fertilizers, eroding land, and groundwater with practices using compost, crop rotation, crop substitution, weed chopping, soil conservation, integrated pest management as alternatives to pesticides, and solar powered drip irrigation.
The participants designated to replicate the OFP model will recruit community organizations. They will be encouraged to initiate organic produce distribution and information services. AAEA will coordinate the organic farming information transfer to community groups for dissemination into inner city neighborhoods. AAEA will work with community groups to provide outreach services to established food banks, open-air and sheltered food markets. AAEA will design a plan for expanding this effort into other urban and rural areas.
The results from the Organic Farming Pilot Project and Pilot
Project Expansion will be used for expanding to the commercial stage. The basic goals of the commercialization stage are to promote the organic farming environment as a viable business and life style alternative and to provide open markets and jobs to African American and small farm enterprises. As a secondary result of achieving these goals with the AAEA, jobs created will be providing an avenue for improving inner city nutrition.
The commercial stage will comprise three steps:
1) Promoting Organic Farming Cooperatives
2) Establishing Markets
3) Establishing Incentives for Organic Farmers
The OFP participants will work to provide incentives to organic farmers who implement agricultural methods that have less negative environmental impacts, similar to those historically provided to traditional farmers. These incentives should include, but are not limited to, price supports, grants for black farmers, guaranteed loans, low-interest loans, tax relief, and marketing assistance. The ultimate goal is to promote an expansion in the role of African American and small farmers in addressing the future environmental constraints on agriculture.
The OFP will work to establish organic farm cooperatives between African American and small farmers. The OFP will initiate these cooperatives in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic regions. The cooperative organic farming environment will have the advantages of saving money and time in "creating the wheel." The cooperative structure will also save money in purchasing equipment, sharing workers, going to market, and marketing produce to retail outlet stores. Moreover, larger profit shares could result from successful cooperative ventures. The OFP participants will work aggressively to promote cooperatives between local and regional organic farmers.
Contacting large black-owned businesses, fortune 500 corporations, and grocery retailers to establish markets for produce from African American and small farmers will be done by the AAEA. Jobs and markets will also be established by contacting health food stores nationwide. AAEA will work to establish retail organic food outlets in inner city neighborhoods. AAEA will arrange media campaigns to promote this project.
AAEA will work with inner city organizations, civil rights groups and other individuals to make organic food acceptable as a nutritional alternative to processed foods. AAEA will establish a campaign to convince street corner stores and grocery stores to carry organic produce. Excess produce will be provided to food distribution centers to feed the homeless and hungry.
The Sustainable OFP will replicate the pilot project at other interested historically black colleges and universities. The Sustainable OFP's primary goal in replicating the model at HBCUs is to provide a source of state-of-the-art organic farming methods and information to environmentally conscious and entrepreneurial segments of the agricultural sector. The Sustainable OFP team will promote sustainable organic agriculture as a way to reduce overall production costs and increase the incomes of African American and small farmers in conjunction with emerging sustainable agriculture objectives. The foremost objectives of Sustainable OFP research and development are economic sustainability, pollution prevention, farmer health, resource conservation, consumer food safety and continuing quality food production.
The Sustainable Organic Farming Project is a bold attempt to save the African American and small farmer and to promote improved economic, nutritional, environmental and agricultural practices. The climate is right to launch a comprehensive environmental and health paradigm in disproportionately impacted African American and small farm communities. A growing awareness of environmental injustices and health sacrificing exploitation has spawned an embryonic environmental justice movement all over the country. The movement needs to solve the technical problems related to environmental degradation. Sustainable organic agriculture could serve as a foundation for widespread economic, environmental and health problem solving.