California agriculture includes a growing number of producers of color, who have historically been underserved by extension institutions, according to Sonja Brodt, University of California Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education Program (SAREP). With increased attention on building constructive working relationships with producers of color and immigrant producers, extension services would become more widely accessible and responsive to these producers needs. Following up on a one-day racial equity training for extension personnel, Brodt received Western SARE Professional Development funding to build a community of practice around social and racial justice in agricultural and food systems extension and provide on-going training and networking opportunities on this topic.
The Building Social Equity into Agriculture and Food Systems Extension project includes a series of webinars with experts and experienced extension professionals, and an ongoing e-mail group. These activities will help extension professionals to continue to work together and support one another in honing the skills needed to foster constructive relationships of trust with farmers and ranchers of color.
Two of the Webinars
Farm Workers are Farmers
This webinar, held on Friday, June 18, 2021, introduces the importance and value of engaging farm workers for agricultural sustainability. The webinar also offers suggestions for how extension professionals can better work to build relationships with farm worker organizations.
Serving Farmers of Color
This webinar, held on Friday, June 25, 2021, describes how extension professionals can build constructive relationships with farmers of color and organizations that represent them.
Participants have numbered from 42 to 78 in attendance. One participant in the webinar on Serving Farmers of Color said, “Great webinar with an excellent group of community members speaking. I really appreciate your putting this on, this inspires me to build more bridges to do better outreach and engagement with non-white farmers.”
“If we wish to expand the sustainability of agriculture in California and truly improve the quality of life of all involved in agriculture and food systems, it’s important that we don’t inadvertently leave out segments of the population who may not fit into the traditional image of who a farmer is. These webinars are our effort to help our colleagues to understand the perspectives and needs of these populations so that we can all improve our abilities to serve them,” says Brodt.
In addition to the webinars, UC SAREP has collaborated with extension colleagues to coordinate monthly meetings during the early stages of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Alliance of the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources (UCANR). Ten DEI Subcommittees and Project Teams have also met to address priority issues such as Policy and Workforce Diversification, among others. Through these efforts, extension professionals across the state are building the capacity of both their institutions and their programming to better serve the needs of socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, says Brodt.
Jenna Meeks, Western SARE PDP regional coordinator, says about the project, “We appreciate the opportunity to support and promote social equity through this programming. These webinars highlight the diversity of farmers, ranchers, and farm workers who produce likewise diverse agricultural goods across the broad geography of Western SARE.”
Learn more about the project: projects.sare.org/sare_project/wsp19-025/