Each year, the Co-op donates $0.10 for every pound of apples sold over the course of a year through our “Apple-a-Day” program. With 61,959 lbs of apples sold from July 2022 – June 2023, we were left with $6,196 to donate to a local organization.
For this year’s donation, we have chosen Ujamaa Farmer Collective
as our recipient.
as our recipient.
The $6,196 donation will directly support the Collective’s fundraising efforts to “build a Black-led, BIPOC-centered agriculture business cooperative committed to providing long-term, affordable land access for multiple existing BIPOC farmers/ranchers struggling with land security” here in Yolo County. In this blog we will tell you more about the vision of the Ujamaa Farmer Collective and how you can help them achieve their goals.
Ujamaa Farmer Collective Leadership Team
(pictured from left to right):
Keith Hudson (Grocery Croppers, LLC),
Brian Pinkney (We Grow Urban Farm),
Nathaniel Brown (Brown Sugar Farm),
Nelson Hawkins (We Grow Urban Farm)
To best understand these goals, we must first consider some historical context. In 1910, around 14% of farmers* in the US were Black and they owned more than 16 million acres across the country. Today only around 1% of US farmers are Black while nearly 95% are White. Many factors over the past 100 years have led to such a sharp decline.
* It should be noted that “farmer” is also known as “producer” in these counts and consists of a farm’s owner, a member of the owner’s family, a manager, a tenant, a renter, or a sharecropper and does not include the employees (known as farmworkers).
Since the early 20th century, Black farmers have faced a long history of injustices including unequal access to credit and federal aid. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has faced multiple lawsuits, including the landmark case of Pigford v. Glickman in 1999, for its history of discriminatory practices that have limited Black farmers’ abilities to invest in their farms and acquire land. Compounding these economic challenges, many Black farmers deal with the complex issue of heirs’ property – a form of land ownership that arises when a landowner dies without a will, leading to the vulnerable division of property amongst the deceased’s heirs. This precarious situation resulted in a 90% decline in Black-owned farmland nationwide between 1910 and 1997, resulting in an estimated capital loss of $326 billion . In addition to these systemic inequities, Black landowners have also faced intimidation, violence, and illegal land seizures, all furthering the gap in land access for Black farmers.
Enter the Ujamaa Farmer Collective. Meaning “fraternity or familyhood” in Swahili, the term “Ujamaa” is the fourth principle of Kwanzaa created through cooperative economics as a practice of shared social wealth and the work necessary to achieve it.This is at the root of what the Ujamaa Farmer Collective hopes to achieve. Created by a compassionate group of advocates within the CDFA BIPOC Advisory Committee, the Collective has been created to work towards addressing the challenge of land tenure amongst historically underserved farmers.
Built upon the work of AB 1348: The Farmer Equity Act, the Collective notes in a blog on the Kitchen Table Advisors website that their focus is “to provide land for BIPOC farm businesses to steward through long-term, affordable leases. These leasing opportunities, ranging from ½ acre to 20-acre plots owned by the collective, will enable existing farm business owners to grow their operations on secure land parcels. The collective also aims to provide on-site housing for the farmers, allowing these business owners to fully immerse themselves in their farms while also raising and tending to their families”
The Collective has already successfully advocated for state funding to acquire a 50-100 acre parcel of land in Yolo County and recently attained counsel to aid them in establishing their 501(c)(3). They have raised $1.25 million towards their campaign goal of $2.5 million so far and are working with Possibility Labs as their fiscal sponsor to make this dream a reality. The work to choose and develop a site is underway as they continue to fundraise to build these equitable opportunities for Black and BIPOC farmers. While the Collective has made great progress, and the Co-op is happy to contribute towards that progress, the work is far from complete to reach their campaign goal of $2.5 million. That is where we are calling on our Co-op community to help support these continued efforts.
As a co-op in our community for the past 50 years, we know the power of collective effort to make changes in our local food systems. In recognizing that, we must also recognize that the changes that our co-op has influenced during that time have largely benefitted only White communities. As noted in an article on the Cool Davis website, supporting this project “is a once in a generation opportunity to do something well within our grasp that will have a significant positive impact right here at home. The impact will reverberate in all aspects of Yolo county racial equity lived experience, in our sustainable food system, in the resilience of our community”.
Each year, the Co-op donates $0.10 for every pound of apples sold over the course of our fiscal year through our “Apple a Day” program. With 60,275.25 lbs of apples sold from October 2021 – September 2022, we were left with $6,275.25 to donate to a local nonprofit organization.
For this year’s donation, we have chosen Davis Forest School as our recipient.
The $6,275.25 donation will directly support the expansion of their Winter 2023 Program to include an additional skill-based class for 15 more children in the Davis community.
Our Marketing Manager Vince and Education and Outreach Specialist Anna recently sat down with founder Candice Wang, and had her answer a few questions about Davis Forest School:
1. Can you Tell us about Davis Forest School and how it came to fruition?
Davis Forest School is a non-profit nature play and outdoor education organization, and
was founded in early 2018. Our goal is to promote and cultivate understanding of, and
empathy for, the natural world, and for the local bioregion (in particular, the ecosystem of Putah Creek and the lower Sacramento River watershed).
Our programming is based on the forest school model, which meets outdoors in the wild, over time, and is a co-creating experience between children and the Forest Mentors.
This organization came to fruition from me being a mother to very spirited and wild
children. Motherhood was an initiation into deconditioning and healing from certain
aspects of my own childhood, and a commitment to following the lead of my children in
what they need. We discovered the forest school model together, and the first time I
spent hours in nature with my kiddos, I just felt so much peace. I could see all the ways
we are disconnected from our lives, each other, the land, and how important it is to find a sense of connection again. My children’s wildness led me to this work, and the layers of depth with our connection to this land keeps me here.
Davis Forest School is also a testament of what can be created from a tapestry of
community members who share a vision and are deeply devoted and passionate to their work. Rosemary Roberts, a parent to one of our first students, took on running the
school when I moved away for a couple of years, and was the person to establish DFS
as a community entity. We are now supported and led by a team of parents behind the
scenes. We also have the most wonderful Forest Mentors who take so much ownership
over what we do, such as Molly Damore Johann, who was the person to connect us
with this opportunity with the Davis Food Co-op.
2. Why do you believe this way of schooling is a good alternative to formal schooling?
For now, we don’t replace other schooling models because we mostly run as an
afterschool program (although we have a homeschool morning class that we would like to expand!). Our organization is more of a counter environment to the formal schooling that children receive, and divests from our culture’s fixation on busyness. Rather than having a top-down model of education, we allow space for spontaneous learning through unstructured imaginative play and exploration. Our staff members are “Forest Mentors”, and not “teachers”, and take on the role of guides for the kiddos during our time out in nature together. We trust children in their innate sense to learn through play and exploration. Our programming is child-led, although we follow a daily rhythm and include naturalist studies, nature connection routines, and earth skills. When children are told what to do, what they need to learn, or what our time together should look like, this can cause them to shut down and resist what’s in front of them. When children have space to just be, their curiosity and sense of openness expands. Children learn so much from following their curiosities, and by returning to the same natural spaces over and over again, throughout the seasons and years.
3. Why is land acknowledgement and reparations an important part of Davis
Our work is deeply entwined with the land. Since time immemorial, the Patwin people have been stewards of this land. Acknowledging that we are on occupied Patwin land, through words, is the very bare minimum entry into land acknowledgement. We are learning that true land acknowledgement comes from how we run our program, and through partnering with Indigenous folks and support organizations. As a society, we need to move away from a model where we commodify nature, where we view it as something to further extract from. Nature programming can easily become about how nature can serve us. Beyond words, land acknowledgment is embracing and honoring Indigenous models of being in reciprocal relationship with the land.
DFS offers reparations to our Black and Indigenous families because we are running land-based programming on stolen land, in a country that was built on the backs of Black labor. Offering reparations is also a step towards dismantling systems of power, and prioritizing equity, in outdoor spaces.