Ujamaa Farmer Collective wants to provide BIPOC farmers with land for their farming businesses!
A recent grant from the state of California will help BIPOC farmers, who currently own less than two percent of all farmland in the country. One farm in particular, We Grow Farms, is facing challenges as developers want to build housing on the land they’re currently leasing to farm on. The farm provides produce like collard greens, black-eyed peas, and tomatillos for local West Sacramento residents. However, Nelson Hawkins, along with Nathaniel Brown and Keith Hudson—two other Black growers in the Sacramento River Delta—have a plan to address the issue.
The three men are founders of the nonprofit Ujamaa Farmer Collective, and it’s their mission to strengthen the roots of historically underserved farmers by staking a cooperative claim to land ownership. After advocating to the California legislature, they were awarded a $1.25 million grant in 2022 for the purchase of a medium-sized plot of land in Yolo County. This will allow multiple farms to operate on individual plots ranging in size from half an acre to five acres. Plus, each farm will have a voice in collective governance and access to shared resources.
Ujamaa, which is named after a Swahili word for extended family and the fourth principle of Kwanzaa, embodies cooperative economics and advancement and will “elevate everybody’s potential so [we] can all thrive,” Hawkins says. Agriculture collectives are popular; however, they’re “often white-led, and they’ve had privilege,” says Brandi Mack, national director of The Butterfly Movement, an educational organization working to connect BIPOC women to the land through permaculture.
Ujamaa’s purpose “is a different consciousness,” Mack says. By collectively owning land and governing, they’ve set the course for “redistributing the flow to BIPOC farmers,” empowering them to build a more resilient community by amplifying their voices and “getting a leg up in the food sovereignty game.”
Cover photo: Black Farmers Collective Secures $1.25M Grant From California to Acquire Land/Photo by Jason Elias Photography/Civil Eats