New agricultural program in Calif., to encourage farming for African Americans

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

A California ranch’s proposal for the development of a food and agricultural center in Sacramento to combat low participation rates and opportunities to Blacks who farm in California was recently approved by the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors, according to the Sacramento Observer.

The United States Department of Agriculture 2012 census reported that out 126,000 farmers in California, only 526 were of Black descent.

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Michael Harris, co-chair of the California Agriculture Working Group, along with other collaborators, met in February for the first Farm to Fork Friday meeting to discuss the project, the Observer reported. The food and agriculture center plans to obtain 140 acres of the closed Sacramento County Boys Ranch located near Rancho Murrieta. The approved project of the center will partner with University of California Davis, Los Rios College District, and the Sacramento County Office of Education.

Farming and heritage

The center plans to introduce agricultural education with the Pan-African experience to youth. Pan-African philosophy seeks to unite and promote the welfare of all people identified with, or claiming membership as part of the African-American community or Black diaspora. The center will educate youth with the hopes they will one day pursue Ph.D programs in agriculture.

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The project seeks to give options for people of African descent to be in the agricultural industry. The farm bill allocates $1 trillion to farmers but Blacks are underrepresented and “not in the room” with congress, Harris told the Observer. Those who decide to start farming may consider investing in used farm equipment or look for local government programs which help small farming businesses.

“The purpose of the Food and Agriculture center is simple. Currently one-third of 1 percent of the Agricultural industry is Black Agriculture and the ongoing education and advocacy is making a difference,” said Harris.