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Environmental Professionals Network

School of Environment and Natural Resources


Recognition of historical injustices in agriculture and the importance of environmental experiences for racial healing

Jan 16, 2024, 7:15am - 9:30am

Photo button from a collection of different images from the EPN Jan Breakfast

Program Overview

This program, on the 8th annual National Day of Racial Healing, addresses land access and explores the human connection to the environment through farming, gardening and other active outdoor activities and the ability for agricultural experiences and acknowledgement of historical injustices to serve as healing towards racial equity. The National Day of Racial Healing, part of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s Truth, Racial, Healing & Transformation efforts, is a time to contemplate our shared values and create the blueprint together for #HowWeHeal from the effects of racism. Launched on Jan. 17, 2017, National Day of Racial Healing is an opportunity to bring ALL people together in their common humanity and inspire collective action to create a more just and equitable world.

The EPN is thrilled to host keynote speaker, Dr. Gail P. Myers (founder, Farms to Grow, Inc.). Dr. Myers, a nationally recognized expert in the anthropology of African American farming, has been lecturing, researching, teaching, writing and documenting stories of African American farmers, sharecroppers, and gardeners for over 20 years.  Dr. Myers, who received her doctoral degree from The Ohio State University in 2002 (Dissertation: Sustainable Communities: Traditions, knowledge, and adaptations among Black farmers in Ohio), received a special commendation award from the Ohio House of Representatives for contributing to the advancement of Ohio agriculture. In 2004, Dr. Myers created Farms to Grow, Inc. to work with Black farmers and local, state, and federal organizations to bring produce from Black farmers and accurate history and education to low-income communities.

In Dr. Myers’ documentary film, Rhythms of the Land (released in November 2021), Joe Thompson remarks that as an independent Black man he wanted his own farm.  Philip Barker says, “The land has so much power.”  For these farmers and many others, having land gave them a sense of independence and sense of power.  During the 1960’s, when Blacks were often arrested for voting, landowners could use their land as collateral to post a bond.  Having land was that vehicle to freedom.  Dorathy Barker says, “that’s why they were trying to take land that Black folks had.”

In her EPN Breakfast program remarks, Dr. Myers enlightens that beyond the intrinsic value of land, the place-based relationship furthers a collective work and responsibility ethic and a sense of power.  As all-Black towns developed in the late 19th and 20th centuries, it was the collective approach that sustained these Black communities.  Landowners donated parcels of land for building churches and schools for the entire community.  Black Farmers and ranchers maintained agrarian traditions that provided the provisions to maintain traditional food ways.  This collectivization of resources and assets facilitated not only the survival but the thriving of these enclaves of liberation.


7:15 a.m. Doors open at Ohio State 4-H Center; Coffee served for in-person attendees. 

7:40 a.m. Breakfast buffet served for in-person attendees. 

8:00 a.m. Livestreaming service begins for virtual attendees.  

8:10 a.m. Tim Haab, PhD, interim director, Ohio State’s School of Environment and Natural Resources, and Kathy Lechman, PhD, assistant dean and director of diversity, equity and inclusion, Ohio State's College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES), provide welcome remarks.

8:20 a.m. Jera Oliver, senior director of development, Advancement-Development, Ohio State's Office of Diversity and Inclusion introduces Dr. Myers. 

8:25 a.m. Gail P. Myers, PhD, founder, Farms to Grow, Inc., presents Why land is so important for liberation. Land has so much power.

9:10 a.m. Live audience Q & A session with Dr. Myers for both in-person and virtual audiences

9:30 a.m. Dr. Haab concludes EPN Breakfast program component. Break and networking session for in-person guests. Livestreaming service concludes for virtual attendees.

9:50 a.m. Identifying and expanding community and market relationships for BIPOC farmers in Ohio, an extended education workshop, begins.

The purpose of this 100-minute workshop is to convene BIPOC farmers, growers, and producers, as well as those working for local, state, and federal support organizations that are currently active in Ohio, to acknowledge community and market assets, opportunities, and challenges to align for greater effectiveness in 2024.

9:55 a.m. Patty Allen, program manager, Black Indigenous People of Color Food and Farming Network (BFFN) provides an overview of the BFFN and offer an update on the organization’s non-profit status and goals for 2024, describes the BFFN’s role in enhancing awareness of the regional community of BIPOC producers and supporting organizations in the food system, and offers advice on the value of networks and coordination in creating new markets and new employment opportunities for BIPOC participants in the food system.

10:15 a.m. Karima Samadi, policy analyst, food systems, Center for Public Health Innovation, Columbus Public Health, and Minister Aaron K. Hopkins (chief executive officer and farm visionary, South Side Family Farms) reviews the Columbus & Franklin County Local Food Action Plan (started in 2016), community development strategies for food systems, and mapping community gardens, identifies “boundary spanners” across the agricultural and food system to find points of connection, and strategies to finding the partnerships and fiscal sponsors. Minister Hopkins will provide advice on strengthening career ready skills and mentorship networks in agriculture from an inter-generational perspective especially for BIPOC farmers and growers in Central Ohio.

10:45 a.m. 10-minute break and networking session. Food and beverage catering provided in hallway.

10:55 a.m. Nicole Wolcott, grassroots policy organizer, Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) overviews what the U.S. Farm Bill is, breaking down key terms and themes, and provides a brief update on the U.S. Farm Bill and other major federal policy opportunities to be aware of for 2024 and beyond.

11:05 a.m. Celeste Treece, founder, AgNoire Urban Farming Association, Farm Manager, Lincoln Heights Movement Jackson Street Farm, Cincinnati, reviews her team’s policy-based recommendations for the current (2024) Farm Bill to advance the work of urban agriculture, small and BIPOC-owned farms, and regional food systems, including:

  • Championing and supporting the production system innovations created and advanced by BIPOC farmers on small and urban farms.
  • Improving the level of financial assistance for the adoption of costly and/or experimental production or supply chain improvements.
  • Re-examining/re-developing technical assistance and the role of Extension-type educational programming to better support urban agriculture and provide more research funding.
  • Offering specific advice for the Office of Urban Agriculture.
  • Adapting crop insurance systems to align with the needs and demands of urban agriculture.

11:20 a.m. Concluding remarks by Dr. Myers.

11:30 a.m. The CFAES DEI National Day of Racial Healing program begins.


Kari MackenbachJera Oliver, co-founder, Growing and Growth Collective, senior director of development, Ohio State’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion

Jera Oliver is the senior director of development The Ohio State University Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI) and co-founder of the Growing and Growth Collective, a volunteer initiative that promotes BIPOC engagement in urban agriculture. As a graduate of Kent State University and Washington University in St. Louis School of Law, Jera pursued a career in fundraising in order to leverage philanthropy as a means for civic engagement and social change.


Aryeh AlexGail P. Myers, PhD, founder, Farms to Grow, Inc.

Dr. Gail P. Myers, cultural anthropologist, earned her Doctorate in Anthropology from The Ohio State University, Masters in Applied Anthropology from Georgia State University and Bachelors in English from Florida State University. Dr. Myers is the founder of Farms to Grow, Inc. in Oakland, CA. She works with organizations locally, nationally, and internationally to improve the lives and future for socially disadvantaged and sustainable small farmers. For the last eighteen years, she has been researching, teaching, and writing about black farmers, producing articles, papers, and documentary shorts related to the adaptations and sustainable practices of African American farmers. In 2001, Dr. Myers organized the first statewide conference for African American farmers in Ohio. Dr. Myers’ also served as the conference coordinator of the 19th California Small Farm Conference in Ventura, CA, November 13-15, 2005. In 2013, Myers facilitated along with the community stakeholders and farmers, the Freedom Farmers’ Market in West Oakland, focused on connecting black farmers with communities in need. Dr. Myers has received numerous awards and honors. Dr. Myers is considered a subject matter expert in the anthropology of African American farming. In addition to managing the operations of Farms to Grow, Inc. she lectures and consults with community based, local, state, and nationally.


Additional Information

This event’s menu features sausage patties, scrambled eggs, potato hash, and fresh fruit salad, Coffee, hot tea, fruit juices and water will be served. There will be plates, cups, woodware, and napkins.  

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 Callia Téllez ( 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.

Masks are optional for all event attendees at this event, 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

This program will be livestreamed on the  EPN YouTube page. Additional information on livestream connections are available to those who register as a virtual participant for this event. 

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EPN Breakfast Series

The Environmental Professionals Network hosts a monthly breakfast series with compelling speakers on important innovative topics at the Nationwide and Ohio Farm Bureau 4-H Center on Ohio State’s campus - open to all!