VC Workplace Hours: Unlocking the Farmers’ Market with Black Farmer Fund

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Black farmers appear to have acquired the tough finish of each stick this previous century.

In 1910, they represented round 14% of U.S. farmers and owned over 16 million acres of land. Right now, one in 100 farmers are Black, proudly owning lower than 5 million acres and shedding $326 billion in land worth. Farmers are suing the USDA for alleged discrimination.

VC funding within the agtech house has been booming these previous few years, and plenty of farmers additionally obtain some kind of backed funding, whether or not from the federal government or nonprofit organizations. These alternatives don’t seem like trickling all the way down to Black founders, nevertheless. Crunchbase discovered that since 2018, $98.6 million out of $39.4 billion have gone to simply 5 Black-owned agtech firms. This, alongside the federal government’s alleged discrimination, implies that Black farmers have been marginalized from accessing the suitable monetary assets they should survive on this explicit market.

It was for these causes that in 2017, Karen Washington and Olivia Watkins created the Black Farmer Fund. The fund supplies financial and social alternative to Black farmers and agricultural and meals companies within the Northeast with the objective of serving to construct group wealth for Black agricultural companies all through the area. There are round 703 Black-owned farms throughout the Northeast out of 196,000 whole, Watkins mentioned, including that in New York alone, the typical Black farmer makes –$906, whereas white farmers make round $42,000. “There’s a huge racial wealth hole in agriculture and throughout industries,” Watkins mentioned.

The fund is technically a nonprofit with a debt fund connected. It raised an oversubscribed $1.1 million pilot fund in 2021 from traders and establishments, which it then invested into eight companies. It’s elevating its second fund with a goal of $20 million and has hit about half that quantity up to now, Watkins mentioned. As a debt fund, it gives low-interest group notes and grants, writing checks starting from $1,000 to $3 million.