The USDA is hoping to encourage more African Americans to take up careers in agriculture. FM89’s Ezra David Romero reports from an outreach event held today in Fresno.
The small USDA office in West Fresno was packed with more than 40 African American people ready to learn how to make their farming dreams a reality. The event is part of the USDA’s efforts to attract minorities and young people into farming professions.
“A conversation around agriculture, around food is incomplete unless you have all communities at the table,” says Oscar Gonzalez is the California Executive Director for the USDA Farm Service Agency.
The African American Farmers of California group claims that less than one percent of farmers in the state are black. To help change that, the Fresno USDA team outlined low interest loans and incentive programs that aspiring farmers like retired Bakersfield teacher Katherine Jordan can benefit from.
“What I really want to do is to teach our young people to become farmers," says Jordan. "I want to grow African American crops like greens and peas."
USDA Farm Loan Officer Trainee James Harris says events like this break down invisible barriers that keep his community from agricultural professions.
“It’s stuff that’s engrained in us in our community that we grew up with like no don’t go work in the fields, that’s slavery,” Harris says. “We want to make sure that African Americans have the opportunity to do that because that’s a big barrier. They want to grow, but they don’t know how to grow.”
He hopes this is event will help alter that mindset. A similar meeting will be held in August for Hmong people interested in agriculture.