Today in Illinois there are only 59 farms owned and operated by by African-Americans across the state, down from 123 in 1997, according to newly revised figures from a 2002 census. As farming has become a big business, it has become one of the least diverse businesses around. Whites operate more than 72,000 Illinois farms, Hispanics 488 and those of other ethnicity 219 combined.
The Rapidly Disappearing Black Farmer
In 1920, Illinois had 892 black farmers, and African-Americans owned 14 percent of the nation’s farmland. Now they hold less than 1 percent. The same pressure to consolidate that has reduced the ranks of farmers for the past century is making any turnaround unlikely. The number of black farmers in Illinois, currently less than one in 1,000, appears destined to eventually hit zero.
The numbers are dwindling across much of the Midwest, according to the Agriculture Department census, which was updated in April. Iowa has 31 black farmers, down from 40 in 1997. Indiana has 55, down from 61. Several states, such as North Dakota, list no black farmers at all. A few states reported small gains, but the numbers are tiny across the region.
Understanding the History of The Black Farmer
The scarcity of African-American farmers stems from a troubled history as well. Racial discrimination played a big role in driving blacks off their land in southern states. During the Great Migration that began with World War I, blacks moved north for jobs in industrial cities, not the hinterlands.
For sharecroppers, farming was associated with the poverty and backbreaking labor of slavery. For those who owned land, unequal treatment made it difficult to retain the property and earn a living. The Agriculture Department acknowledged that it had abused black farmers for generations. USDA agents approved only a fraction of financing requests, delayed loans until after the planting season and withheld other key payments.
Why is this Important to You
Why does any of this information matter to the most urbanized people in the world. Well it matter on many levels and we are going to explore some of these in this post. Today in most inner-city African-American communities are what the USDA classify as “Urban Food Deserts”. These urban food deserts have similar characteristics: Food deserts can be described as geographic areas where residents’ access to affordable, healthy food options (especially fresh fruits and vegetables) is restricted or nonexistent due to the absence of grocery stores within convenient travelling distance.
The Economics of Urban Food Deserts
Economic forces have driven grocery stores out of many cities in recent years, making them so few and far between that an individual’s food shopping trip may require taking several buses or trains. In suburban and rural areas, public transportation is either very limited or unavailable, with supermarkets often many miles away from people’s homes.
What are Urban Food Deserts
The other defining characteristic of food deserts is socio-economic: that is, they are most commonly found in communities of color and low-income areas (where many people don’t have cars). Studies have found that wealthy districts have three times as many supermarkets as poor ones, and that white neighborhoods contain an average of four times as many supermarkets as predominantly black ones do, and that grocery stores in African-American communities are usually smaller with less selection.
People’s choices about what to eat are severely limited by the options available to them and what they can afford—and many food deserts contain an overabundance of fast food chains selling cheap “meat” and dairy-based foods that are high in fat, sugar and salt. Processed foods such as snack cakes, chips and soda typically sold by corner delis, convenience stores and liquor stores are usually just as unhealthy.
Urban Crowdinvesting and Entrepreneurship
Crowdinvesting has the ability to close the African-American urban-rural divide by allowing inner-city entrepreneurs to create local food stores that are able to provide healthy food choices to people living in urban food deserts and it opens new markets to the dying Black farmer.
Roots & Vine Produce and Café is a unique and innovative new concept that is actively pursuing solutions to social justice, food justice and Black farmer issues from both the supply and demand side by creating a brand that addresses the needs of both of these groups of Black people using market based strategies that will create jobs, revenue, health and wealth for both inner-city urban food desert dwellers and the rapidly disappearing Black Farmer.
Please visit Roots and Vines offer as they sprout up in food deserts across the country and will quickly make the new startup a household name. Inserting themselves into blighted communities and providing fresh produce, bulk dry goods and essentials in areas that need it most and creating new markets for Black farmers.