Growing the Future of Agriculture: Conversations with Black Farmers and Educators
Diverse food sources support healthy bodies and diverse food sourcing supports healthy communities. Growing a sustainable food system in Ohio requires changes in our agricultural practices and developing the workforce who grow our food and steward our soil and water resources. America’s farm population is aging, barriers to entry are challenging and agricultural careers require extensive knowledge of the farm ecosystem, as well as skill in crop and livestock production. As Farm and Dairy recently shared, advancing sustainable agriculture presents a tremendous opportunity for future growers in Ohio though there are historical and current barriers to entry in agriculture, including for youth of color, that must be addressed and overcome to achieve a healthy and flourishing food system.
Black farmers have innovated farming methods that remain at the core of sustainable agriculture today despite systemic and cultural limits to land access in the United States, including the ownership and operation of our nation’s most productive agricultural land. Recognizable leaders include the pioneering and globally influential work of Dr. George Washington Carver a century ago to advance specialty crop productivity and nitrogen fixation in soil to Leah Penniman’s current approach to advancing the practice, policies and ethics underpinning new food system movements.
The U.S. Census of Agriculture reports that in 2017 there were 48,697 Black farmers, an increase of 5 percent since 2012, who are operating primarily in the southern United States. Black farmers have shaped and will continue to influence a sustainable agricultural system in the United States, however, Black-operated farms and the overall share of agricultural land owned by Black farmers has declined during this period relative to non-Black farmers. As a workforce in agriculture nearly 20 percent of Black farmers have career military service experience, significantly greater than non-Black farmers, meanwhile 38 percent of Black-operated farms did not have internet access in 2017.
Join this EPN Breakfast program to learn from Black farmers, and about opportunities and challenges that exist for growing and enhancing connections to the land through agriculture and other regenerative land and community practices, including for youth of color. In addition, Ohio State's vice president for agricultural administration and dean will discuss programs and activities through Ohio State Extension and the agricultural research and educational communities at Ohio State to improve opportunities for Black farmers in Ohio.
For in-person guests
7:15 a.m. Doors open at Ohio State 4-H Center; Coffee served.
7:40 a.m. Breakfast buffet served.
For all program attendees
8:10 a.m. Jeff Sharp, PhD, director, School of Environment and Natural Resources, provides welcome remarks.
8:20 a.m. Yolanda Owens, chief cultivator, Forage + Black and president of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) Alumni Society Board, introduces and facilitates an engaging dialogue on the role of Black farmers in shaping the future of agriculture in Ohio and beyond.
Omope Carter Daboiku, farm manager, Edgemont Solar Garden and CSUx Beginning Farmer Incubator, talks about her agricultural work, growing food, and connecting with her community and young farmers.
Kenisha Robinson, regenerative farming fellow, Agraria Farm and owner, Nourganic Life Farm, shares her experiences as a young grower and “surprise” multi-generation farmer on her family's 8 acre farm in Trotwood, Ohio.
Ariella Brown, associate director, Gender Equity Programs & Education, Antioch College, provides an overview of Black Farming: Community Land & Food Sovereignty Conference, next steps, and future activities.
Cathann A. Kress, PhD, vice president for agricultural administration and dean, CFAES, discusses programs and activities through Ohio State Extension and the agricultural research and educational communities at Ohio State to improve opportunities for Black farmers in Ohio.
9:10 a.m. In-person and virtual audience Q & A facilitated by Ms. Owens.
9:25 a.m. Closing Comments by Dr. Sharp.
Ariella Brown, associate director, Gender Equity Programs & Education, Antioch College
Ariella's passion for agriculture and supporting local grown food began with her work in Congress, working for then Congresswoman Marcia L. Fudge who spearheaded an urban agriculture project called the Cleveland Seasonal High Tunnel Initiative, where she worked with USDA and other local organizations to fund hoop houses in urban settings. When Ariella relocated to Dayton a few years ago, she became involved with the Arthur Morgan Institute for Community Solutions to work on the first Black Farming Conference last year with a group of like minded individuals that wanted to celebrate the historical contributions of black farming while also providing a platform for black farmers to network and learn from one another; this is how the black farming conference started, by a small group of passionate people. Ariella is not a farmer herself, per se, but she respects and appreciates the hard work, dedication and love that goes into it and strongly believes we owe so much to our agrarian community that nurtures us everyday by growing the food we consume everyday.
Omope Carter Daboiku, farm manager, Edgemont Solar Garden and CSUx Beginning Farmer Incubator
Omope Carter Daboiku, an Appalachian of mixed ancestry, hails from the Ohio River town of Ironton, where she learned to grow and preserve food by working side-by-side with family elders. She migrated to Cincinnati in 1972 becoming a cultural geographer and award-winning teller of tales; and, worked as a professional storyteller, actor, and teaching artist for over 30 years.
Then, deep reflection of purpose during the Great Quarantine of 2020 pushed her back to the land as she found solace teaching urbanites how to plan and sustain community gardening in neighborhoods suffering from food insecurity. Honoring ancestral wisdom led OC to Edgemont Solar Garden and serving as Farm Manager for Central State’s Incubator Farm and being chosen for the first Agraria (Community Solutions) Regenerative Farming Fellowship.
Easing into eldership, Omope calls herself “a futurist” committed to sharing global Earth Wisdom and exploring the dynamics of land stewardship as a path toward social and spiritual transformation.
Yolanda Owens, chief cultivator, Forage + Black, president of the CFAES Alumni Society Board
Ms. Yolanda Owens grew up in Columbus, Ohio. An unsuspecting participant in 4-H and In-School Scouting, she developed her connection with the land very young. Growing up with a garden in her backyard was only the beginning of her journey that took her to Ghana, West Africa, where she discovered that food is life. Ms. Owens is a graduate of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences where she also serves as President of the Alumni Society Board. An active participant in her community, she along with four other women helped to found Black Lactation Circle, a breastfeeding support and advocacy group for Black mothers in Central Ohio. Ms. Owens is a wife, a mother of two little boss ladies (no, really, their initials are CEO), and a supporter of those trying to do right by the people and the land.
Kenisha Robinson, regenerative farming fellow, Agraria and owner, Nourganic Life Farm
Kenisha Robinson is a 2nd-year produce farmer in southwest Ohio. Growing up on a small farm, she never imagined herself becoming a farmer. After graduating college, moving out of Ohio, and working several professional jobs in the government and non-profit sectors, Kenisha returned to the area. Driven by her desire to learn to grow her own food, connect back to the land where she grew up, and encourage other people to grow food, she started volunteering at a local farm. This connection led to her current position as a participant in the Regenerative Farmer Fellowship through Agraria Center for Regenerative Practice and as Program Assistant for the fellowship program. Her favorite food to grow is okra!
This event’s California Continental Breakfast features freshly baked bagels, muffins, cranberry bread, and gluten-free zucchini bread. Yogurt and a fresh fruit salad will also be provided. Fresh Colombian coffee (caffeinated and decaffeinated), hot tea, and assorted fruit juices will be served. Compostable plates, napkins and flatware utilized are made from renewable sources like corn, sugarcane, and potato starch.
In-person attendance will be limited based upon capacity and current Ohio State safety guidelines. Registration is required for all participants. Please only register for in-person attendance if you fully expect to attend. Masks are required from all event attendees at this event, regardless of one’s vaccination status, in accordance with Ohio State’s Safe and Healthy Protocols as of this date. In-person attendees will be expected to follow Ohio State protocols regarding the prevention of COVID-19 transmission. More health and safety information available on this Personal Safety Practices page. All fees will be refunded if changes in COVID-19 restrictions prevent in-person attendance.
We strive to host events that are inclusive and accessible to everyone. If you have a disability and require accommodations to fully participate in this activity, please reach out to Cecil Okotah (firstname.lastname@example.org). Requests made five business days in advance will generally allow us to provide seamless access. However, we will make every effort to meet requests made after this time frame. You will be contacted by someone from our staff to discuss your specific needs. For the virtual audience, a closed captioning option via EPN’s YouTube live stream will be available, as well as other accommodations as requested on the registration.
This program will be recorded, edited, and posted to the EPN YouTube page by October 19, 2021.