We are a coalition of 3 long-standing Detroit urban farming organizations with a collective mission to rebuild inter-generational land ownership for Black Farmers in Detroit: The Detroit Black Food Security Network (DBCFSN), Oakland Avenue Urban Farm, and Keep Growing Detroit.
WHAT DO WE DO?
As Black women agriculturalists committed to right relationship with land, the transformation of our communities through food sovereignty and the revitalization of Detroit’s agricultural landscape, we honorably steward this fund to support Detroit’s Black Farmers in land acquisition and farm support.
Detroit Black Farmers have demonstrated the courage to pour into their communities by cultivating vacant land despite the fact that they cannot afford to buy it; reduce persistent blight and dumping by taking responsibility for the abandoned pieces of their neighborhoods; and feeding Detroit fresh, local produce; the healthiest foods to eat.
From a height of approximately 15% of farmers in the 1910s, Black Farmers are now, and have been for decades, a mere 1% of farmers nationwide. At approximately 48,000 Black farmers, according to the 2017 Census of Agriculture, we own 4.7 million acres of farmland in the U.S., which is about 0.5% of the country’s total. We have lost over 12 million acres of farmland and have declined about 95% in population over the past 100 years. The intergenerational trauma of Black farmland loss cuts so deep because it isn’t over. Gentrification and speculative development continue to limit the availability of city-owned vacant land, and all too often what's considered the "best use" of city-owned land comes down to money.
Detroit, which is almost 80 percent Black, has more than 2,020 farms and community gardens — a large portion of which are run by Black farmers. Many do not own the land we cultivate and it’s not for lack of available space. Black farmers have long struggled with historic and ongoing racial discrimination that has prevented us from buying property, and passing it down, like many white farmers have done for generations. Farmers in urban centers face challenges of land sales prioritized to big developers and a lack of institutional knowledge and time to navigate the bureaucratic system.
It is the intention of the Detroit Black Farmer Land Fund (DBFLF) to rebuild inter-generational land ownership for Black farmers in Detroit and applicants should share that mission. DBFLF awardees will be expected to use any funding for land purchased and/or infrastructure project for gardening, farming. or other agricultural purposes for at least the next five years.
HOW DO WE DO IT?
We take back our power through urban farmland ownership and organizing our communities into the deep togetherness that builds the new world we know can build. It is our mandate to get more Black farmers the support they need to own the land they grow on and attain the infrastructure needed to develop viable farming operations. Each year, starting on Juneteenth, we fundraise to provide monetary awards directly to farmers to buy land from the Detroit Land Bank Authority (DLBA). The amount each farmer gets is determined by how much their land costs, and how many plots they want to purchase. We provide one-on-one technical assistance with land purchases and farm development (soil testing, plot planning, etc.).
The first year the fund launched, we awarded 30 farmers with the money they needed to purchase the land they either have been farming or in the process of starting to farm. In the second year, we awarded 40 farmers land and infrastructure funds.. Infrastructure has become an essential part of our mutual aid process given that land acquisition ishas been only the first hurdle to viable farm operations. To support intergenerational Black farming, land acquisition is just the beginning. Other needs such as tool storage, refrigeration, rainwater collection, fencing, farm equipment, and much more makes a significant difference for long-term, intergenerational, farming.