Beyond Equity Statements: Black food leaders building an anti-racist toolkit for farmers markets

By: Ethel Recinos       Posted On: February 3, 2021

Farmers markets have benefited from the reputation of being inherently good for people, communities, and economies. It’s easy to frame markets in this positive light. A farmers market search will bring up images of outdoor markets with smiling shoppers connecting with their neighbors and local farmers. These images will also reveal the unfortunate fact that farmers markets are predominantly White spaces

At Farmers Market Coalition, we believe farmers markets are an important part of a thriving local food system. However, the vision we have for markets goes beyond the feel-good shopping experience narrative. FMC also supports farmers markets as entities that can address racial injustices in the food system and affect system-wide change.

Our mission — to strengthen farmers markets for the benefit of farmers, consumers, and communities — is impossible to reach without analyzing and admitting that farmers markets have benefited from the systems and policies that have simultaneously perpetuated racial inequity and injustice for communities of color. 

In order for farmers markets to be radically transformed into the accessible, inclusive, and viable food outlets they want to be, they must do more than offer surface level solutions like discount programs for customers with low incomes and topical equity statements. Farmers market leaders must take steps towards changing their structures, policies, and ways of doing business to operate in ways that actively combat racial inequities and promote racial justice.

To move towards this, FMC, in partnership with consultants Sagdrina Jalal (Lead Technical Advisor/Facilitator) and Nedra Deadwyler (Lead Researcher & Content Builder) is supporting the creation of an anti-racist toolkit for farmers markets, led by Black food systems experts across the country. 

These experts will examine farmers markets at a high level, identifying the ways that policies and systems have contributed to make farmers markets predominately White spaces.They will also provide practical tools and resources for market operators to examine and adjust their internal structures and policies to be more anti-racist with multiple methods of delivery (checklists, videos, case studies, worksheets, etc). 

This toolkit will then be a resource for farmers market operators and staff across the US. As decision makers in the farmers market space, operators and managers have the power to make changes to the structures, policies, and programs of their market.

Our end goal is not to wipe our hands clean and declare farmers markets anti-racist because of the creation of this toolkit. Instead, we recognize this toolkit as a starting point for market operators to take a long, hard look at the inequitable structures, systems, and policies that farmers markets have benefited from and begin to take action to reverse the damage this has caused the Black community specifically. 

Once created, this toolkit won’t be just another PDF document that sits on a proverbial shelf. Similar to the Farmers Market Legal Toolkit, FMC envisions this toolkit as a way to spark dialogue and discussion with market managers and their market community. In collaboration with the work group members who created it, we plan to put this toolkit into practice through workshops, webinars, conference presentations, communities of practice, and technical assistance to farmers market operators. 

Want more general information about the anti-racist toolkit?  This FAQ document can help

Fillmore Farmers Market

Meet the content creators

The creation of this toolkit will primarily be driven by a work group of 10 Black food systems experts, with leadership by facilitator Sagdrina Jalal and researcher Nedra Deadwyler and FMC serving in a supporting role. While we hope that the information shared and changes that come about from this toolkit will benefit a multitude of races and ethnicities we decided that it is important to begin this first phase of creation with a work group made up of Black folks. This is to allow us to dive more deeply into the lived experiences of a specific population that has a long and traumatic history with agriculture, land ownership, and food systems in this country.

There will be opportunities for additional consultation and feedback outside Black communities throughout the development of this toolkit. To learn more about this approach view our FAQ.

After a thoughtful request for applicants and application process, 10 experts were selected to make up the work group. We’re excited to work with the following leaders:

Work group members started in earnest in January with their first meeting. They will meet monthly, with opportunities for collaboration in between meetings, to determine the structure, content, and dissemination of the toolkit.

The tentative anticipated completion date for toolkit is Fall 2021, with access to sections as they become available. Stay up to date with progress and toolkit by subscribing to FMC’s monthly newsletter. 

Additional Resources
Farmers Market Coalition Anti-Racism Work Resource Library
Farmers Markets And Whiteness
Young Farmers Racial Equity Toolkit
Farmers Markets and Gentrification: Just green enough anthology
Black, White, and Green: Farmers Markets, Race, and the Green Economy