The face of agriculture is changing. At USDA, we want you to know that whether you come from a farming background or not, grew up in a rural, suburban or urban area, that there are opportunities for you to get involved in agriculture. It is my highest priority as Deputy Secretary to ensure that beginning farmers and the growing ranks of agriculture - women, young people, immigrants, minorities, socially disadvantaged producers, returning veterans and retirees - have access to the programs and support they need.
That is why yesterday, I joined Congresswoman Gwen Graham at Florida A&M University to talk about the importance of diversity in agriculture. There are a host of resources available at USDA and beyond, especially now that Florida has been named a StrikeForce state. I also announced that farmers can now use our popular microloans to gain access to land. These are just some of the tools that are helping new farmers succeed.
During the discussion, we heard from incredible panelists — a woman who got her start in agriculture as a subsistence farmer and decided to go into business, a current FAMU student and veteran, a veteran who has traveled the world but now wants to bring his military values back to his local community, and a former USDA employee who motivates youth to learn the business side of agriculture. Their thoughts on diversity in agriculture are below:
Caria Hawkins, owner of Abundant Harvest: “Farming has to be a passion. You must have the energy to challenge the obstacles that stand in your way and the creativity to come up with solutions. There are very few women farmers in my area and I’m really looking for ways to create more opportunities for them. Farmers are bringing change to the world from the ground up and I couldn’t be prouder to be a part of that movement.”
Therus Brown, FAMU student and veteran: “A discussion on the role of diversity is of utmost importance, because an ecosystem will not thrive without it! The role of agriculture will remain the same down the line, though the face may change. We must remember that with added diversity comes various views, products, and markets which are essential in the continued growth and success of any operation.”
Jim Hill, new farmer and veteran: “Just as biodiversity is essential to agricultural sustainability, we can be assured that increasing opportunities for more and diverse people to access farming and ranching land, equipment, education, and training, will result in new kinds of market competition, drive innovation, result in healthier food, and more responsible agricultural practices that will benefit both consumers and the environment.”
Glyen Holmes, Executive Director of New North Florida Cooperative Association, Inc.: “Diversity in agriculture gives a multifaceted view of farming and how it can be applied using several different scales. Diversity for New North Florida Cooperative means greater networking and marketing opportunities for our operation.”