Barbara Norman Receives NCR-SARE Diversity Prog...

Barbara Norman Receives NCR-SARE Diversity Program Grant

Barbara Norman Receives NCR-SARE Diversity Program Grant

Barbara Norman by Kelly Weber

In 2007, NCR-SARE committed to a new diversity initiative that emphasized building strong relationships with existing programs and organizations that served those that might have been under-served by NCR-SARE. That goal was not only to influence future funding, but also how NCR-SARE would communicate and engage in outreach in the region.NCR-SARE developed a Diversity Goals Narrative to clarify NCR-SARE’s goals for its new diversity initiative and initiated a special call for the Diversity Research and Education Grant Program.

The special call for the Diversity Research and Education Grant Program’s purpose was to fund people and/or projects that could help NCR-SARE reach and work with underserved audiences to improve agricultural sustainability in the region.Simultaneously, an NCR-SARE Diversity Committee was formed to respond to NCR-SARE’s goal to reach and work with underserved audiences.

Barbara Norman, a third generation farmer on her blueberry farm in Van Buren County, MI, was awarded the first ever NCR-SARE Diversity Grant for $100,000 to develop “The Continuing Face of Sustainable Agriculture” project.

“The Diversity Initiative is a reflection of our acknowledgment that we could use some help in setting up systems and practices in becoming more diverse and serving more diverse audiences,” said Bill Wilcke, Regional Director for NCR-SARE.

In conjunction with NCR-SARE, Norman selected three specific areas to concentrate efforts for this project: Detroit, MI, Kankakee, IL, and the historical farms of Nicodemus, KS, based on demographic data and the potential to build on key relationships with service providers.

Norman collaborated with several service providers including Michigan Integrated Food and Farming Systems (MIFFS) outreach coordinators, Iyabo Farms, and the Kansas Black Farmers Association to reach underserved communities.Organizations in the region such as Kansas State University, Michigan State University, University of Illinois, and other USDA agencies became involved as events were planned. Participants included Detriot urban farmers in Detoit, MI, small-scale African-American farmers in Kankakee County, Hopkins Park Village, and Pembroke Township, IL, and the historic community of African American farmers in Nicodemus, KS.

“Service providers in other states within the north central region are also interested in working with underserved farmers; however, they need the mentoring of an experienced outreach person who can make the connections within the underserved community that lead to successful projects,” explained Norman. “Leaders in the underserved communities recognize the advantage of receiving mentoring from experienced farmer advocates who can bring them together with the service providers who can help them.”

MIFFS outreach staff, Iyabo Farms, and the Kansas Black Farmers Association met with potential leaders and early adopters in the targeted communities, developed partnerships with service providers who showed interest in working with the underserved communities, held grantwriting workshops, and established their project as a means to develop relationships among SARE leaders, adopters of sustainable agriculture concepts, underserved farmers, and service providers.

“This project carried the SARE Sustainable Agriculture story to well over 2,000 small scale, limited-resource producers and families,” said Norman. “The Continuing Face of Sustainable Agriculture Project has exposed them to SARE bulletins, pamphlets, books, and grant opportunities.”

According to Norman, this project, by the way of outreach and personal mentoring, reached out beyond its targeted geographic areas.

“We have clearly demonstrated a definite no-boundaries, relationship-building project. The sustainable working partnerships and collaborations that have evolved led to a continuing mentoring program with overall regional success,” said Norman.

Want more information? See the related SARE grant(s) LNC08-307, Diversity - The Continuing Face of Sustainable Agriculture .

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This material is based upon work that is supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture through the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.