Kentucky Black Farmers Work To Reduce Barriers To Food Programs

This story was originally published by Public News Service.

Black farmers in Kentucky said they have benefited from participating in Farms to Food Banks, an agricultural program funneling leftover produce from local farms to regional food pantries, and into the hands of Kentucky families in need.

Tatum Lewis of Black Roots Farm in Clark County said he is working to help raise awareness about the program among the state’s farmers of color. Lewis views the program as an opportunity for farmers to generate cash from what they might otherwise plow under.

“I wanted to spread that message to minority farmers that there’s another income source that you probably haven’t noticed or used, or even known about,” Lewis explained. “And it’s a great opportunity to help supplement your income.”

Lexington-based Complexion Community Development and the Community Farm Alliance in Berea recently partnered with Feeding Kentucky on grants to help increase diversity among participants in the Farms to Food Banks program. According to the nonprofit Feeding Kentucky, more than three million pounds of Kentucky-grown produce were distributed to people in need though the program.

Lewis noted a lack of physical representation means many Black farmers are left out of opportunities, and has been working on a project to map out where Black farmers are positioned across the state, with the goal of helping producers boost marketing strategies and access resources for farm projects.

“Being able to show them a physical representation during the Black Farmers Conference in March,” Lewis outlined. “Where these black farmers are, where our voices are, where our products are, how we how they can do their transportation and distribution lines.”

Lewis added cooperatives are one tool farmers of color can use to grow their businesses.

“Joining a co-op helps you get your voice out there and start moving things, and gaining that knowledge that you need,” Lewis emphasized. “And they can also help kick-start your distribution lines.”

According to federal data, the number of Black farm operators has plummeted over the last century. Only about 1% of the nation’s farmers are Black, making up only 0.5% of total U.S. farm sales.

Interested Kentucky farmers can contact Feeding Kentucky at 859-986-7422 or online at [email protected]

Disclosure: Feeding Kentucky contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy and Priorities, Children’s Issues, and Hunger/Food/Nutrition. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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