Colorado farmers of color say they’re pleased with federal funding after years of discrimination

DENVER — As the Biden Administration prepares to allocate $5 billion in funding from the American Rescue Plan to farmers of color, some Colorado farmers view the move as necessary and overdue.

“Farmers of color have been left out of every (stimulus) round and so this is a great first step,” said Beverly Grant, urban farmer and founder of Mo’betta Green Marketplace. “The amount of dollars that the president has set aside for Black farmers is commensurate with someone being serious about wanting some change to happen.”

Grant and several other volunteers help run the Seeds of Power Unity Farm in north Denver where the group provides access to fresh fruit and vegetables to communities of color.

“There’s definitely a historical precedent of treating people of color like second-class citizens and part of that second-class citizenry is no regard to our health and well-being,” said Asia Dorsey, local entrepreneur and urban farmer at Seeds of Power Unity Farm. “I think we are seen as folks who work but not necessarily as folks who deserve a ‘right livelihood,’ and part of that ‘right livelihood’ is access to high-quality food and healthcare services.”

Since the 1950s, Black farmers have lost 12 million acres of land, according to statistics from the USDA. In 2010, Congress approved a settlement after finding the USDA denied farmers of color loans based on race.

“It’s a matter of environmental racism. It’s always been this way. They keep us separated, they keep us out of the conversation, and then ask why we’re not involved,” said Faatma One, an agriculture expert who also works at Seeds of Power Unity Farm.

One and Grant said even though their farm is small and in the middle of the city, they work with rural farmers to help connect their community to high volumes of quality food.

“Our goal as urban farmers and food activists is to educate people about the cycle of food, which is from the seed to the stomach,” Grant said.

Urban Farmer Flor Marquez, who also works at Seeds of Power Unity Farm, said the additional federal funding will help them further this goal, but they learned long ago not to depend on government support.

“Support from the bill is going to be helpful, but we’ve been working on our own infrastructure, developing our own knowledge, and skills in our own community so that we’re not dependent on them and that’s been one of the ways our communities are so resilient,” Marquez said.

In a recent statement, the USDA said it is committed to rooting out systemic discrimination and endorses the debt relief provision for minority farmers in the American Rescue Plan.