Apr 02, 2021
1 mins read
New Jersey-based media company committed to Black farmers, now holds the largest, free, public directory to US Black growers.
The Black Farmers Index started out as a response to the surge of food insecurity resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic by NYU professor and Ark Republic’s, Dr. Kaia Shivers in March 2020. Growing to include over 800 listings, the index is now the largest free, publicly accessible directory of Black farmers and agriculturalists from mainly the US, but includes the Caribbean, Africa, Europe, as well as Central and South America.
Before U.S. Sen. Cory Booker proposed the Justice for Black Farmers Act in February 2021, Dr. Shivers — editor-in-chief to New Jersey-based independent media organization Ark Republic — was on assignment in Italy when the pandemic began decimating people’s access to food.
“The index was birthed out of me wanting to offer a solution to the growing food issues during the pandemic, while directing business to Black farmers who have historically been left out of a lot of agribusiness opportunities.”
In response, Dr. Shivers set out to highlight traditional farmers, foragers, apiaries, crabbers, fisherfolk, and a few tobacco farms, etc. All of whom were disproportionately affected by COVID-19 and are socially disadvantaged as well as criminally underfunded by federal organizations such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
“In the US, Black people were the first growers that fueled the country, meaning it was their agricultural work and artisanship that fueled the economy, and Black farmers have always been connected to racial justice. Simply getting a loan is difficult due to systemic racism, and even food justice organizations and initiatives supporting Black farmers are strapped for resources too.”
One month after launching the Black Farmers Index, with well over 150,000 hits on Ark Republic’s site, demand and interest are growing. With the recent passing of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 — which has granted an approximate $5 billion dollar allotment to minority farmers — the power to change the quality of life for Black farmers now depends on their exposure and visibility.
“We want to ensure that the people are fed, and so are the farmers.”