American Farmland Trust works toward a better tomorrow, every day. We take a holistic approach to agriculture, focusing on the land itself, the agricultural practices used on that land, and the dedicated individuals who do the work. We know that this work is hard and that many struggle to get into farming and make a living from the land.
Further, we understand that achieving a resilient agricultural system, as well as building a strong and capable organization, depends on equity and inclusion for all groups who have been, and still are, marginalized. Under this umbrella of marginalized, we include Black, Indigenous, and people of color, or BIPOC; women; immigrants; small-scale and limited-resource farmers; people with disabilities; and LGBTQI+ communities.
We recognize that social and racial injustices are entrenched in the history of our nation and our agricultural system, and that we cannot fully appreciate either without acknowledging genocide, land theft, enslavement, and other injustices perpetrated against Indigenous, Black, and other marginalized peoples. We also recognize that our past informs inequities that persist today, and that all marginalized agricultural producers—BIPOC in particular—have long been denied equal opportunity to prosper, facing challenges such as loan discrimination, barriers to accessing federal and private programs, exploitative labor practices, intimidation, and theft and appropriation of land.
The result of this history can be seen today, where 95 percent of producers (those involved in making decisions for the farm or ranch) are White, which is not reflective of the immense diversity of America’s population.
We believe that discrimination against marginalized groups negatively affects all Americans by limiting the opportunities for current or aspiring farmers, normalizing the exploitation of workers, inhibiting collective economic growth, disregarding alternative approaches to farming, and promoting the assumption that not all individuals have an equal right to land. We believe that this contributes to a less resilient agricultural system; a weaker economy, especially in rural areas; and an inequitable social system. Without deliberate action, we believe that the consequences of injustice will grow worse over time, especially as the impacts of climate change stress our food system, leaving marginalized producers and consumers at greater risk of facing hunger or the loss of livelihood. However, we also believe that change is possible.
Statement on Equity
We are committed to advancing equity and inclusion in all areas of AFT’s mission through multiple avenues, including our programs, communications, and advocacy.
Toward these ends, we are also committed to increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion within AFT, including through hiring and appointing diverse staff and board, increasing the diversity of our members and other supporters, and broadening the scope of the individuals, organizations, and partners with whom we work. We are committed to educating ourselves, being fair and transparent, and listening to, and learning from, diverse communities in order to cultivate humility, increase our cultural awareness, and improve our ability to address issues of diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice, or DEIJ, both internally and externally.
Internally, we commit to policies, staffing, and practices that reflect a sustained and robust dedication to diversity, equity, inclusion, justice, and the improvement of our organizational culture. This commitment includes:
- Establishing recruitment, retention, and promotion strategies so that AFT’s staff and board better reflect the diversity of the nation. We also commit to cultivating an internal work environment in which marginalized individuals feel safe, understood, and valued. This includes identifying and deconstructing potentially harmful workplace practices and culture so we can grow as an organization.
- Providing training for staff and board and other opportunities for self-education and dialogue to address bias, further our knowledge, and ensure sustained progress toward DEIJ goals.
Externally, we commit to building lasting partnerships and strengthening our DEIJ work through advocacy and programs. This commitment includes:
- Building authentic and sustained partnerships with organizations led by marginalized persons, or representing marginalized groups, and other entities. This includes using our resources to support shared goals and using our platforms to amplify their voices and support their leadership.
- Expanding our work to promote DEIJ values in all areas of AFT’s mission. We will continually examine and seek to improve our programs and other work to reflect our commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice. When possible, we will also extend this goal to our advocacy, supporting and amplifying policies that elevate the needs of, and create opportunities for, marginalized producers.
Furthermore, we commit to an internal audit and data collection to assess and measure our progress toward achieving and maintaining these commitments.
We acknowledge that this statement—and the transformational process it represents—is merely the first step of a longer journey. As we commit to this work, we recognize that we may stumble along the way. We are open to dialogue on this statement and to partnerships in our journey.
Photo by Stephen Kirkpatrick, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service