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Celebrating Black Farmers in Massachusetts

Published in February 2024,

Adapted from Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR)

Celebrating Black History Month:

Striving for equity in agriculture and the food system is an integral part of achieving environmental justice. MDAR holds this space to acknowledge the historic and current systemic practices that have prevented Historically Underserved Farmers from participating in farming practices. MDAR is committed to ensuring equitable access to land, programs, and services. 

The highlighted individuals and organizations below are a few of the many farms and organizations that strive to uplift Black contributions to agriculture and support Black farmers across Massachusetts. The statements below are for informational and educational purposes only and reflect the views and opinions of those identified. Information on how to connect with the contributing farmers and organizations can be found in the profile section of this webpage.

MDAR hopes to highlight and support Black farmers and organizations beyond this publication and beyond this important historical month. If you have questions, suggestions, or concerns with our EJ work, would like to schedule a meeting or farm tour, or would like to be reviewed for inclusion in a future publication, please reach out to Olivia Palmer at 

In celebrating Black History Month, the EJ team interviewed and heard stories from Black farmers and allied organizations across the Commonwealth. Farmers graciously shared their, at times painful, journeys to where they are today. The EJ team asked farmers to share their stories, and in the spirit of looking towards the future, we wanted to hear advice farmers would share with Black youth looking to enter into a career in the Massachusetts food system. MDAR's EJ team wants to emphasize the importance of, and our commitment to, uplifting Black farmers, not just during this important month, but in all of our efforts. 

Tell us about your journey to where you are today: 

Mattapan Food and Fitness Coalition (MFFC) is a health and wellness community-based organization located in Mattapan, a neighborhood in Boston, MA. Their organization was formed to invite the community to work on decreasing chronic health diseases in holistic ways.

Through their values of equity and antiracism, health and wellness, community ownership and empowerment, relationship building grounded in trust, respect, and youth power, they aim to continue promoting health and healthy behaviors by improving the nutritional and physical activity environments in Mattapan and surrounding communities.

What advice or knowledge would you share with Black youth thinking about starting a career in the Massachusetts food system? 

Mattapan Food and Fitness Coalition (MFFC)'s Youth Development and Program Manager, Shawntell Usher-Thames, wants youth to know that food is freedom.

“I have seen what having access to fresh grown food can do for a family when they are able to get it free or at an affordable price. Joining organizations or being employed in organizations where you are experiencing what it is like to garden, farm, run your own farm stand and helping farmers sell produce at a local farmers market will explore your interest."

MFFC’s own Vigorous Youth have been more appreciative and keen on food access jobs because they are working closely with farmers that grow, harvest their produce, and sell it. Sometimes the youth are able to get a bag filled with the produce from the farmer they helped. At first they were hesitant to take the items given to them. They did not want to look “uncool” carrying bags of vegetables home via bus or walking. After a while they realized how happy it made their family and their food at home tasted better! By the end of the summer they were buying from farmers with their own money. They would come back with stories of helping their families cook or doing it themselves.

Youth being a part of knowing where their food comes from and being able to grow their own food is invaluable.

In concluding our conversations, we asked farmers to reflect on the ways they have built community with other Black farmers or organizations, and what tools would be necessary if they were looking to begin to build that network: 

Mattapan Food and Fitness Coalition (MFFC) is a collaborative organization that was informed by the needs of our residents who wanted more and access to affordable and healthy food. To address their needs, the first initiative of the organization is the Mattapan Square Farmers Market. The Black farmers they help to support come from places such as Dominica and Africa. Support looks like providing a space for them to sell their produce, herbs, grains, honey, and more, purchasing equipment needed to set up their vendor station, providing them with volunteers to support with translation and customer service, and recognizing them through their end of season get-togethers.

With the support of the City of Boston, our partners, and most importantly the volunteers and community members, they were able to serve 6,200 residents and give back more than $80,000 to our farmers for the past two years.

The invaluable tool that would be needed to create connections and build networks is to connect with your local farmers market. If you are not sure where your local farmers market is located, check in with your town’s local municipality to obtain a list. Inquire about selling at the location and build relationships.

Key Learnings From Our Interviews:

In our conversations with these farmers, we heard about the historic discriminations that have occurred both nationally and in Massachusetts, from pricing discrimination to lack of visibility and feelings of being shut-out or tokenized within important discussions on land and food access. Some farmers expressed that these pasts have made the path forward clear and emphasized the importance in moving from food apartheids to food sovereignty, and from land loss to land access. 

Many of the highlighted farmers expressed ways that others can be allies to Black farmers both nationally and in Massachusetts. Farmers expressed that the inequities facing Black farmers and communities are not only felt within that space but are also experienced by rural, isolated, and low-income communities where income and resource inequalities exacerbate food insecurity issues and access to decision making. MDAR’s Environmental Justice work recognizes this complexity, and incorporated income, language, and racial diversity into our Environmental Justice definition and initiatives. 


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