Multicultural Farmers Program Expands to Southeast Michigan
April 13 , 2008: Michigan Food and Farming Systems – MIFFS has begun expanding its programming to reach limited resource and minority farmers in different parts of the state. MIFFS has made a special effort to reach farmers in the Upper Peninsula and in southeast Michigan. On March 12, a workshop specifically aimed at reaching limited resource farmers in southern Wayne, Washtenaw and Monroe counties in southeast Michigan was held.
The March 12 meeting was organized as a result of Morse Brown and Alfonso “Al” Norwood, District Conservationist with the USDA NRCS organizing as partners to make field visits and contacting African American and small, traditional farmers in Monroe County. The meeting was a success with 28 farmers in attendance and five agency/organizations and representatives in attendance, including: Al Norwood, District Conservationist for NRCS; Morse Brown, Multicultural Farmers Program Manager for MIFFS; Rachel Bakowski, Supervisor of the Ottawa Lake National Agriculture Statistic Service (NASS); Linda Mitchell, of the Michigan Coalition of Black Farmers; and Freddie McNeil, Conservation Agronomist for NRCS in Flint, Michigan.
These agencies and individuals joined together as a panel to provide the farmers of southeast Michigan with an indication of the resources available to them to assist them in their farming operations. Each panelist gave an overview of the kind of assistance available from their agency or organization.
Al Norwood led off the discussion explaining the role of the NRCS and sharing how his agency can provide help to farmers developing plans for their farms and helping them to plan for various programs available, such as the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQUIP) and the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). He explained that NRCS also had general soil survey information available on each of their farms.
Morse Brown explained the role of the MIFFS Multicultural Farmers Program and said he had become involved to help farmers gain access to many of the resources that many had been denied in the past. He explained that the Multicultural Farmers program could provide help in farm planning, business planning information on risk management and risk management insurance. Its overall goal is to assist farmers in becoming more economically viable by providing access to various programs and on-farm help, showing them ways to improve their operations.
Rachel Bakowski explained the National Agricultural Census. She and emphasized that the Census was very important because it determined the amount of funding made available to the various counties and agencies, which is based on the number of farmers. She encouraged participants to complete the Agricultural Census, and several provided their names for future follow-up.
Linda Mitchell explained the role of the Michigan Coalition of Black Farmers and said that they are interested in helping farmers be better able to market their products. She also encouraged those present to attend their upcoming meetings where agency officials from USDA in Washington, DC would be attending and giving the latest information on the 2007-2008 Farm Bill.
Freddie McNeil talked about the role that NRCS could play assisting them and emphasized that he was available to help those in urban centers grow fresh produce that the farmers can grow themselves and provide fresh healthier food for their families. He emphasized the partnerships between the various agencies and the ways these resources can help the farmer.
The meeting successful for all those in attendance and was one of the largest meetings of farmers of various races and ethnic backgrounds held in southeast Michigan.
For more information about the Multicultural Farmer Program, contact Morse Brown at email@example.com or (269) 208 -1443.
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Founded in 1998, MIFFS is a statewide membership organization (501c3) whose purpose is to promote diverse efforts that foster and sustain food and farming systems that improve economic, ecological and social well-being. MIFFS has been effective at establishing successful partnerships among producers, markets and institutions that have created more profitable, environmentally friendly food systems in Michigan.
The organization’s vision is based on the premise that agricultural productivity, environmental stewardship and profitability reinforce each other for the benefit of Michigan’s rural and urban communities. To learn more, please visit www.miffs.org or call (517) 432-0712.