Black Farmers Index and Organic Trade Association partner to bring more diversity to organic agriculture

Organic agriculture is booming, two organizations have joined forces to ensure that Black growers are included.

Black Farmers Index (The Index) and the Organic Trade Association (OTA) recently entered a collaborative effort with one main goal: diversify certified organic growers in U.S. agribusiness. The two groups will work together on a number of diversity and equity efforts to ensure Black farmers are included in a large and growing industry that made more than $60 billion in 2020.

The partnership’s current focus is getting Black farmers who are in The Index — which is the largest, free, public listing of Black agriculturalists in the U.S. — enrolled into the OTA Diversity and Entrepreneurship Program. OTA Diversity and Entrepreneurship Program is supported by donations from member companies interested in addressing these issues. The initiative assists growers who are actively transitioning to the production, distribution, certification, or promotion of certified organic products and services. Participants also receive $750 to go towards the certification process, a two-year Trade Membership to the Organic Trade Association, along with a host of workshop sessions and other resources.

“There are a number of growers in The Index who use organic methods, or some type of process that is free of chemicals and pesticides, but the process of getting certified can be daunting and quite expensive,” said Dr. Kaia Shivers, President of Black Farmers Index. “OTA’s program provides a bevy of resources and business opportunities that were once missed by Black farmers. Plus, as an organic consumer for almost 30 years, I am excited to see more folk of color in the industry,” continued Dr. Shivers.

“The organic trade needs to grow on all fronts and it is urgent that we address barriers, access and equity in the organic marketplace. Programs and partnerships like these with the Black Farmers Index, are just the start of building the future of organic,” said Tom Chapman, CEO of the Organic Trade Association.

Through the partnership, the organizations have committed to three goals:

  1. Enrolling more Black farmers into the OTA, specifically registering them into the Organic Trade Association Diversity and Entrepreneurship Program.
  2. Assisting farmers in becoming certified as organic growers, or as far as possible into the certification process.
  3. Developing strategies for U.S. agribusiness that are diverse, equitable, and inclusive.

Included in the partnership, The Index will be working with THE ORGANIC CENTER in collaborative efforts that highlight the products and growing knowledge of Black farmers.

Black Farmers Index started in March 2020 as a media project by Dr. Shivers’s news outlet Ark Republic. Following the George Floyd tragedy, the interest in the directory exploded. The listing now has over 1,000 growers and provides workshops and events designed to bring business to both traditional and non-traditional growers.

In the past years, OTA has made a serious commitment to expand its membership through programs encouraging participants from BIPOC communities. Stephanie Jerger, the Vice President of Administration, oversees the OTA Entrepreneurship Diversity Program and the organization’s diversity council.

“It’s an exciting opportunity for OTA to continue its commitment to diversity. This partnership is just one more important step towards our mission of protecting and promoting organic in the most inclusive way possible,” exuded Jerger.

As the OTA diversity initiative enters its second year of activity, it continues to grow and develop programming based on the needs of the participants. Making its debut, in September, is the association’s new Diversity Toolkit. OTA has become a leader in ensuring the growth of diversity in the organic industry, and it has compiled a considerable repository of resources to aid in this work. Its Diversity Toolkit is designed to be used by the public and OTA members as a first stop when making efforts towards diversifying their conferences, businesses, supply chains, and more. You will find the Black Farmers Index prominently featured there as well.

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