In the United States, we are all inheritors of a legacy of a painful history with regard to agriculture and land: land theft, stolen labor and slavery, genocide, and systemic racism formed the foundation of American agriculture, and remain endemic in our food and farming systems today. We seek to both acknowledge these harms and find our place in repairing them.
In our early days, NOFA-VT grew out of a primarily white-led back to the land movement. At NOFA-VT, we come together across class differences, which has been an important point of learning and growth within our team and community. Farmers feed us all, and yet they still often struggle for financial stability. The ability of all farmers and farmworkers to make a viable living is critical for an equitable food system.
Historically, the organic movement has focused on ecological principles, while it has grappled with how to incorporate social principles. Many have fought for worker justice and food equity to be included, but these principles have not yet been incorporated into the National Organic Program’s definition of ‘organic’.
Built from this foundation of a primarily white-led movement, our staff and board continue to be majority white, able-bodied, cisgendered people who largely have had access to higher education and stable housing, even as their class experience varies. We are an organization that grew from, functions within, and benefits from a society that has systematically alienated, oppressed, and marginalized people of color, as well as oppressed others based on religion, sexuality, cultural and gender identity, economic status, physical ability and beyond, to keep power consolidated in the hands of few.
As an organic farming community, we have often failed to acknowledge that many foundational principles and practices within organic agriculture were originated by people of color (examples include permaculture, CSAs, pick your own, and more.) We have collectively raised up white and most often male leaders in these areas and omitted leaders of color and other marginalized people who have been on the front lines growing and providing food for centuries.
NOFA-VT has not always been welcoming to people of color, as well as people of nondominant religious, cultural, gender, and sexual backgrounds and identities. We have heard directly from partners that some of our gatherings have felt overwhelmingly white and not relevant or representative of the full spectrum of people interested in farming for people, land and justice. We appreciate and hear this feedback and seek to do better. We seek to work beyond inclusion, to actively dismantle the idea that this is somehow NOFA-VT’s movement to welcome people to. We are unlearning our ownership of this work and working to recognize and align with global farming movements for people and land (largely led by people of color, women, and other often marginalized groups.)