In 2019, Food for the Spirit circulated a survey amongst Black farmers throughout New York State and one farmer commented “We are a dying breed”. Black farmers suffer from most issues associated with small farms in a system that favors large-scale agriculture, however; their experiences are compounded by a history of discrimination through both private and public sectors controlling markets and finance.
The 2019 survey was circulated online and in-person at farmers markets throughout New York State to Black Farmers. Eight surveys were completed:
- Seven respondents identified as Black farmers and one identified as a “Black farmer aggregator”
- They reported selling mostly vegetables, fruit, value-added products, eggs, poultry and herbs.
- They rely mostly on farmers markets to sell their products.
- Though two sell at farm stands and restaurants, and one sells through a CSA, none have institutional contracts.
- Some of the barriers they face in attempting to access new markets are: market managers ignore barriers to healthy food options for marginalized consumers; racism and classism; CSA’s as too labor intensive; lack of workforce and funding
- One farmer wants to shift to institutional sales and fewer products.
- Four farmers reported annual profits less than $30,000; one reported $40,000 to $50,000; one reported fluctuating profits between $10,000 and $30,000; one chose not to respond; and one reported barely breaking even.
- Two family farms are run by 9-10 adult siblings who learned to farm from their fathers.
- While two of the farms are over 40 years old and one is just starting operations, the remaining have operated for an average of 8.4 years, ranging between 3 and 15 years of operation.
- The geographic locations of the respondents farms were widespread: one downstate (Orange County); three in Central New York (two rural Tompkins County, and one rural Wayne County); one Upstate New York (rural Rensselaer County); and two in Western New York (one rural Orleans County and one urban Erie County).
Of the eight Black farmers that have responded, five farmers agree to participate in a cooperatively developed project to increase their profitability.