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EQUITY

Statement & commitments

Food production in the United States is grounded in the theft of land from Indigenous Americans and the enslavement of African peoples captured and brought here to work that land. Our country does not recognize the significance of this history in establishing our current position as the wealthiest country in the world. And our ability to look away from these injustices allows us to perpetuate them today with examples like these:

 

 

FairShare acknowledges that this history is embedded in our occupations as agricultural workers and in every meal we eat.

 

History of CSA and FairShare 

The birth of community supported agriculture (CSA) in the United States is most commonly attributed to Indian Line CSA and Temple-Wilton Community Farm, founded by white farmers in 1985 and 1986, respectively. While these two farms have played large roles in the popularization of CSA in America, this history ignores the earlier contributions of Black farmers to the CSA model. 

The concept of community supported agriculture originated in the United States in the 1960s and 70s with Dr. Booker T. Whatley. As a Black farmer and agricultural professor at Tuskegee University, Dr. Whatley advocated for “smaller and smarter” farming. He taught regenerative farming practices and believed that small farms could achieve financial sustainability by directly marketing their goods through what he called “Clientele Membership Clubs.” These clubs were virtually identical to modern CSAs with the one exception that club members, unlike today’s CSA members, were expected to come out to the farm and harvest their food themselves.  

In 1992, the FairShare CSA Coalition (FairShare) was started by a group of community members who wanted better access to local and organic food and a stronger connection with the farms and farmers that grow it. These eaters recruited local farmers to start CSAs. Both of these groups were white and middle class. This foundation of white leadership and thought has had a predictable and enduring impact on the long-term priorities and vision of FairShare and it’s no coincidence we look the way we do today.

Current State of CSA

Today, CSA is dominated by white farmers, and serves predominantly white, middle-class members. To center equity in the model, we must understand the racist systems that have stripped land from Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) as well as those farmers’ access to capital, and actively work to challenge those systems. We must also examine the current features of CSA that exclude diverse participation and actively change them. 

 

Many attributes considered core to CSA are also attributes that perpetuate white dominance in the model, including the large upfront cost of membership, language barriers in promotional and sign up materials, transportation required to fetch shares during limited pickup times, and the time and knowledge required to prepare and cook the culturally dominant foods that come in a share. 

 

Looking Forward

Revisioning and innovating CSA in a way that centers racial equity may produce a model that looks different from what we have come to expect. This revision will maintain the core principles of CSA while changing the elements that make it exclusive and dominated by white people. CSA requires that the community has a stake in and supports their local farmers. In return, the community is fed and nourished. This concept will not work if it only prioritizes the needs of a fragment of the community.

 

At its core, CSA is about reciprocity and relationship-building: community supporting agriculture. This ethos is what FairShare stands behind when we say that CSA can be the backbone of a strong local food economy and it is this ethos that we will continue to center. By prioritizing a model of CSA that works for those who are most impacted by injustice, we move towards serving the entire community. 

FairShare will:

1. Examine our work through the lenses of race, class, ethnicity, language, gender, age and ability, so that we can be conscious of who benefits from our work and who does not.

a. Organize at least one annual training for staff and board on equity, with a focus on agriculture and the development of tools and behaviors for doing this work

  • February 2021 - Preliminary planning for two trainings to be held within the year, one for Board & Staff and one for FairShare-endorsed farms

  • January 2020 - Board & Staff Racial Justice Training with YWCA

b. Use the Food System Racial Equity Assessment Tool to increase equity in our programs, events, marketing, fundraising, and staff/board/farm culture 

  • January 2021 - Reserved 30% of Partner Shares program assistance funds to go towards supporting community partnerships (i.e. community centers, food banks, etc)  in order to prioritize assistance for BIPOC participants. 

  • January 2021 - Changed Partner Shares Assistance to a sliding-scale model that emphasizes qualitative guidelines (vs. strict income guidelines.) This change is meant to reflect the broad geographic region we serve, and encourages participants to reflect on earning power and the impacts of systems of oppression on wealth. 

  • November 2020 - Farm Endorsement Committee considers changes to the endorsement process to encourage and support more racially and geographically diverse farms.

  • June 2019 and ongoing -  Staff “Just Lunch” meetings examine numerous aspects of the organization and result in a change to the Partner Shares logo, new hiring practices, changes to the endorsement process, this equity statement, and more

  • Fall 2016 - Met with Dominic Ledesma from Extension to develop multilingual and multicultural access to the first Organic Vegetable Production Conference with a focus on Hmong and Latinx growers.

c. Modify the Food System Racial Equity Assessment Tool as we use it over time OR find a better tool to meet our specific needs

  • December 2020 - Reviewed how we are utilizing the Food System Racial Equity Assessment Tool and compared it to other similar tools (such as the Young Farmers Racial Equity Toolkit.) Determined that we will continue using the Assessment Tool’s guiding questions for framing our conversations about race and equity.

d. Implement equitable recruitment and hiring practices for staff and board

  • Spring 2020 - Added language to position descriptions and changed job requirements and qualifications to encourage diverse applicants. Posted hiring announcements in a wider and more diverse set of job boards and listserves.

  • Fall 2019 - Added interview questions designed to gauge applicants’ history with and willingness to engage in racial equity work with FairShare.

2. Prioritize focus on and engagement with  BIPOC farmers and consumers to ensure expanded relevance and accessibility of FairShare programming.

a. Integrate translation and interpretation across FairShare’s farmer and consumer resources and begin building sustainable funding for language access services. 

  • February 2021 - Language access service built into organizational grant planning. 

  • February 2021 - Developed multilingual templates for program outreach.

  • 2021 and ongoing - multiple grower education workshops are offered with simultaneous interpretation for growers with limited English proficiency.

  • January 2021 - Met with the Office of Access, Inclusion and Compliance (OAIC) with UW Madison Extension to learn about tools and improved our skills around working with participants with limited English proficiency.  

  • 2019 and ongoing - Annual Meeting provides simultaneous interpretation in Spanish (with other languages available)

  • 2017 and ongoing - Organic Vegetable Production Conference provides simultaneous interpretation, translation of the conference agenda and evaluation, and contact info for someone who can help people register for the event online in Spanish or Hmong.

b. Incorporate thoughtful and relevant acknowledgements of our agricultural history and the contributions of BIPOC farmers and consumers into programs and events 

  • 2020 Routes to Roots - Every route starts with a land acknowledgement specific to this event, and multiple topics in each route highlights current and historical contributions of BIPOC farmers.

  • 2018 and ongoing - Organic Vegetable Production Conference.  The acknowledgement is revised, expanded, and made relevant to the moment each year.

c. Invest in opportunities to expand resources for BIPOC farmers through equitable grower programs and farm endorsement

  • February 2021 - Farm Endorsement Committee developed a new system for engagement to include “connected,” “affiliated,” and “endorsed farms to encourage and support more racially and geographically diverse farms in our network.  New structure will be rolled out in fall 2021.

  • June 2020 and ongoing - Organic Vegetable Educator working with two Extension projects to expand access to existing programming and develop new programing for Hmong farmers in Wisconsin, current focus is on asset mapping and needs assessment.

  • May 2020 and ongoing - Organic Vegetable Educator attending monthly anti-racist farmer educator meetings with partners across the mid-west, current focus is on pathways to living wages for farmers and farm workers.

  • 2017 and ongoing - Organic Vegetable Production Conference provides scholarships, travel stipends, free family member registrations, interpretation and translation services, and targeted outreach to BIPOC presenters and participants that are part of the conference foundation.

3. Learn about, support, and follow the lead of BIPOC-led organizations, with a focus on those organizations that work in agriculture, food security, labor and health care.

a. Build partnerships with BIPOC-led organizations through a foundation of deep listening, showing up and collaboration

  • October 2020 to May 2021 - Meeting with an advisory committee of racially, and geographically diverse farmers to look at specific points of access to and relevance of FairShare leading to concrete changes to our programs and endorsement process

  • October 2020 - Met with Brandi Grayson and Tatiana Dennis of Urban Triage and followed up with a support letter for their WEDC grant agreeing to develop and pilot a grower training for Black gardeners and farmers in cooperation with Dane County Extension.

b. Recommend BIPOC organizations and leaders to committees and organizations that make policy decisions affecting farmers and eaters

  • Stay tuned!

c. Put our dollars behind POC-led service providers and organizations

  • February 2021 - Developed a plan to sponsor events led by and/or serving BIPOC farmers 

  • 2019 and ongoing - Actively recruiting BIPOC partners and vendors for FairShare events like Bike the Barns and Find Your Farm​

FairShare was part of drafting the CSA Innovation Network Equity Statement and we leaned on it heavily in drafting our own.