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Land & Environmental

Black Farming Conference returns

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Now in its fourth year, the Black Farming Conference will return to the Miami Valley this weekend.

The first iteration of the conference, held in the fall of 2020, was overseen by the Agraria Center for Regenerative Practice. This year, however, the conference will be presented by the Black Indigenous People of Color Farming Network, or BFN.

The Black Farming Conference will be held Friday and Saturday, Sept. 29 and 30, at the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center and the neighboring campus of Central State University, both in Wilberforce.

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The conference’s presenting organization, BFN, was formed following the first Agraria-sponsored Black Farming Conference in 2020, when those who took part in the initial conference found they wanted to stay connected. Now a statewide alliance, BFN aims to improve the production and distribution of food and advocate for and create an equitable food system that ensures greater access to locally produced, affordable, nutritious food to historically deprived and under-resourced communities of color.

As the News reported last month, BFN is currently working to establish its own nonprofit status independent of Agraria.

BFN Program Manager and chair of the Black Farming Conference planning committee Patricia Allen said via press release this week that the conference “celebrates the heritage of Black farmers in America and regenerative Afro-Indigenous farming practices developed by enslaved farmers and their descendants who built the U.S. agricultural industry.”

This year’s event — to be held in-person after two years of virtual programming — will kick off Friday with a keynote dinner featuring a talk by Tim Lewis, a founding partner of Rid-All Green Partnership.

Rid-All Green Partnership is a nonprofit in Cleveland’s Kinsman neighborhood, where the founders transformed a former illegal dumping site into a 15-acre urban farm and agriculture campus. Though Rid-All began nearly 30 years ago as an exterminating business, founders Damien Forshe, G. Keymah Durden III and Randy McShepard established the Green Partnership in 2011 after Forshe’s extermination work in homes in the Kinsman area helped reveal the lack of access to fresh, locally produced food.

Now, the organization uses urban agriculture to educate the next generation of Clevelanders to grow and eat fresh foods, teaching both youth and adults about environmental sustainability, urban farming and wellness. Keynote speaker Lewis has worked with the partnership since 2018, and founded its “Green N Tha Ghetto” youth educational arm. His curricula have been presented in several Cleveland schools.

On Saturday, a Community Farm Fair will be held, and will include exhibitors, vendors, demonstrations, music, dance, art, food trucks and tractor test drives. These activities are free and open to the public.

Vendors and exhibitors will include ARROWROCK FARM, an urban sanctuary; Bronzeville Farmers Market; Midwest Farmers of Color Collective; Seven Seed Sowers Co-op; Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association; Botanical Sol; AficaPure; Mildred’s Vineyard’s Sweets; Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE); the Green Club of Walnut Hills High School; the USDA and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

“The Black Farming Conference attracts holistic agriculturists and entrepreneurs,” said AJ Boyce, who is an agriculture conservation practitioner for the Nature Conservancy, via press release. “Those who regeneratively cultivate land, along with mind, body and community — growers of all backgrounds — will find sparks of inspiration.”

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