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West Michigan

Young Farmers

chapter

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Farmer holding hemp seeds

Our

org

Roots

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The chapter started as a way to build off of the work that the National Young Farmers Coalition has done for the last decade. We’ve been advancing the conversation around equitable land access in West Michigan and beyond to bring attention to vital resources needed to close the gap present for BIPOC farmers realizing their land ownership dreams and having the resources they need to thrive.

started 2021

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our

GOALS

Our chapter’s goals are to build power for BIPOC farmers and strengthen the local coalition of both BIPOC growers and allies to support the diversity and equity inherent in the agricultural sector in West Michigan and beyond. We are committed to working towards a more sustainable future through supporting farmers, development of soil and agricultural resources, community education, and policy advocacy.

Our chapter’s goals for 2024 and beyond are:

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Increase participation in our chapter led events

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Increase chapter membership to leverage numbers for building political power and collective agency

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Help facilitate a pipeline and pathway for urban to rural farm leadership specifically for BIPOC, women, and queer farmers

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Leverage our work to resource current and aspiring young farmers to have sustainable businesses

our Work

edcuation

Educating the community through hands on learning opportunities


stewardship

Supporting land stewards by resourcing farmers committed to regenerative practices


advocacy

Providing opportunities to amplify the voices of those who nourish our nation


our Leaders

Angela Haan

Asia Horne

Kristin Zuller

Takidia

Jenkins-Smith


Elizabeth

Visser

Alita Kelly

Payge Solidago

how it started

We were inspired to start organizing by the farmer-chapter model created by the National Young Farmers Coalition, a policy-advocacy organization that supports the gathering and advocacy work of 51 localized farmer-chapters across the country. We came to this work hoping to create systemic change in West Michigan, and as we saw the values of land skyrocketing in Grand Rapids, we decided to focus on land access. Inspired by the foundational work of the Detroit Black Farmer Land Fund and Washtenaw County Black Farmer Fund, we knew something like this could happen in West Michigan too. So we began hosting informal listening and visioning sessions with current and aspiring farmers of color in the Grand Rapids area. These conversations collectively visioned our current effort, the West MI Farmers of Color Land Fund.

why farmers of color?

Green Okra Vegetable

People of color are drastically underrepresented in farming nationally, especially Black farmers, who make up less than 2% of farmers in the US, and only 0.4% in Michigan. In West MI, there are only about 10 farmers of color that we know of and many more aspiring growers and farmworkers. However, there are limited safe and appropriate opportunities for BIPOC aspiring farmers to thrive. Most rural land is in isolating environments and too far from the communities that many of these folks live in and want to serve. Options for urban farming are limited too; there are only 60 vacant lots in the city of Grand Rapids, the largest city in West Michigan. Most of these lots are too small for an operation to be able to scale, while most other green space is owned by collaborative churches or developers. We investigated all the vacant lots of Grand Rapids and have identified a few that could be viable for urban agriculture. We are drafting a proposal for the planning committee of Grand Rapids with the hopes that they will give land to farmers of color before it is taken by gentrifying developers like companies owned by the DeVos family.


We fully support efforts that focus on Black farmers, like the Detroit and Washtenaw Black Farmer Land Funds. We decided to open our movement up to all farmers of color, because of the population dynamics and demographics in our region. While supporting as many farmers of color as possible, we still aim to center Black aspiring farmers in this work.


west michigan farmer of color land fund

the land fund supports the following counties:


Muskegon

Newaygo

Oceana

Osceola

Otsego

Ottawa

Roscommon

Saint Joseph

Van Buren

Wexford

Kalamazoo

Kalkaska

Kent

Lake

Leelahau

Macosta

Manistee

Mason

Missaukee

Allegan

Antrim

Barry

Benzie

Berrien

Branch

Calhoun

Cass

Charlevoix


Clare

Clinton

Crawford

Eaton

Grand Traverse

Gratiot

Hilsdale

Ionia

Isabella

For the last 3 years we’ve been working towards ways the community can uplift farmers of color, therefore empowering the whole farming and broader community. The work of the land fund is reclaiming agricultural practices, which can rebuild a connection to land, community, and healthy foods. We know that having access to land empowers communities to be self-sufficient, food secure and resilient in the face of climate chaos and unstable global food systems. Our goal is to address past generational injustices by empowering the creation and expansion of pockets of BIPOC-owned green growing space in urban and rural settings of West Michigan. This is crucial to increasing food security and community resiliency. The land fund aims to support growers in acquiring and/or maintaining land assets. Land ownership is the only pathway towards a just, equitable and sustainable future for farmers. This mutual aid project reached its goal in February and will make the first awards by the end of 2024! Stay posted for an application launch date and join the movement and donate HERE!

Chapter events

The chapter hosts events that are open to the public where the community can come and learn about the work we doing, help brainstorm how we do this work, and find opportunities to connect with one another.


We provide free dinner by a local BIPOC restaurant and/or use local produce to curate a meal for attendees. The Cultivate events are communal conversations intended to inform and activate those looking to find community amongst current or aspiring growers as well as anyone interested in strengthening their relationship to the land and community through grassroots organizing.


Join us for the next Cultivate YF event on:


TBD. We’ll have an event soon after the land fund application is live.

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cultivate

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yf

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west michigan young farmers

Power to the People 616 is a women of color led collective & project of the chapter dedicated to the healing of our West Michigan community. We serve the people with love and intention through peaceful revolution. Our modes of community organizing are food justice, environmental sustainability, and health and wellness. A foundational part of our philosophy is reinforcing rest as an act of liberation by creating safe spaces for us, by us. It is our mission to work towards collective liberation with the community.

The movement

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Individuals

Individual involvement plays a crucial role in nurturing the rich tapestry of our mission. We warmly invite community members who are inspired by our vision to join us in various capacities. Whether you have a green thumb, voice for storytelling, or a passion for change, there’s a place for you in our collective. By volunteering at events, sharing our cause through social media, or contributing financially, you lend strength to a movement that reveres both culture and agriculture. Each individual’s contribution is like a unique thread in the vibrant quilt of our community—indispensable, impactful, and woven with care. Help us cultivate a legacy of equity for us, by us.



Organizations

Organizations that resonate with our mission and want to join the movement can engage with our chapter through several pathways. Partnering with the West Michigan Chapter of Young Farmers presents an opportunity to magnify our collective impact and weave your organization's legacy into the fabric of cultural preservation and agricultural sustainability. Corporate sponsorships, in-kind donations, or collaborative events are powerful avenues through which organizations can contribute to our mission.


Additionally, offering your expertise in areas such as sustainable farming practices, business development, or educational programming can enrich our community's knowledge and resources. By aligning with us, your organization becomes a pivotal part of a larger movement that not only advocates for social equity but also nurtures the environment upon which we all depend. Together, we can create a future that honors our roots, respects the earth, and celebrates the diversity of its people.