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40 Acre Cooperative: Seeding the Growth

Our vision creates models for economic equity in agriculture for socially disadvantaged farmers

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Lead Applicant Organization Name

40 Acre Cooperataive

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Farmer Co-op or Farmer Business Organization

Website of Legally Registered Entity

www.fortyacrecoop.us

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • 1-3 years

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?

Willow River, Minnesota

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?

The United States of America

Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

Agricultural farmers in select regions throughout the United States who are identified as socially disadvantaged farmers.

What country is your selected Place located in?

The United States of America

Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

Forty Acre Cooperative is a registered farmer cooperative and agro-allied company that serves a national base of at-risk farmers including multi-generational family farms, underserved farmers, and socially disadvantaged farmers who have persevered through what some consider tumultuous farming experiences in the United States. Some members are at risk of farm loss in part due to the lack of access to traditional farming resources that have not been distributed equitably across farming communities. Farm loss for the Black farmer subgroups has been particularly striking in the past fifty years, which includes a significant milestone of the class action lawsuit that documents the intentional and systemic exclusion of Black farmers from USDA resources over several decades. This lack of access to financial and educational resources has created a significant disparity in farm income and revenue --and earning potential across the United States. 40 Acre Co-op is addressing this disparity by supporting socially disadvantaged farmers with tools and resources to improve their farm operation using principles of equity and sustainability. We prioritize farmers who for one reason or another are ineligible for or lack access to traditional farmer resources like USDA loans, grants, and set aside programs typically reserved to help farmers.

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

The legacy of Black agriculture in the United States is complex and multilayered. Black farmers, in particular, have not organized a farmer cooperative since the Reconstruction Period of the United States and these organizations were disbanded due to harassment and intimidation from white supremacists starting in the1930's and intensifying during the U.S. voting rights era.  The Pigford vs. Glickman lawsuit documents numerous instances of USDA discrimination against Black farmers over several decades. Viewing these events within the context of the significant contributions that black farmers have made in agriculture over the past 100 years from inventions of the corn planter to the creation of refrigerated trucking puts this loss in another light. The exclusion of black farmers from mainstream agriculture has not only resulted in the loss of income, inheritance, and livelihood for farm families but, the world has also lost out the solutions and inventions that Black farmers offer through agriculture. The problems in the environment and the food system quagmires that need solving are waiting for the next Granville Woods or Frederick McKinley.  Black agriculturists have always changed the narrative of farming in the United States, and we continue this leading-edge legacy into the 21st century as we set the stage for this initiative.

What is the approximate size of your Place, in square kilometers? (New question, not required)

18903

What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?

50055

Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

Our primary aim is to create equitable economic opportunities and help co-op farmers access and leverage market opportunities by facilitating market risks and pooling agricultural resources that most farmers could not access alone.  The co-op has forged national and international partnerships to procure seeds, clear licensing requirements, and source processing facilities for members to grow Industrial Hemp in 2020 in full compliance with the 2018 Farm Bill. The co-op members are organizing the first National Co-op for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers in over one hundred years.

There are about 49,000 Black farmers alone in the United States.  There are at least an additional 100,000 groups that also qualify as "socially disadvantaged" in the U.S. agriculture system.  Our message of social and economic equity resonates with most people regardless of racial, or social background because it is based on the principles of fairness and justice.  here are about 49,000 Black farmers alone in the United States.  There are at least an additional 100,000 groups that also qualify as "socially disadvantaged" in the U.S. agriculture system.  Our message of social and economic equity resonates with most people regardless of racial, or social background because it is based on the principles of fairness and justice.  

This year we are focusing on hemp crops as an important market to leverage for our farmers.  We believe that leveraging this commodity creates viable cash crop opportunities that will help farmers regain economic stability. We are focusing on Hemp because it is forecasted as the global game-changer that also offers triple bottom line benefits in global agriculture. We are invested in the three main areas of impact the crop offers; 1) Environmental sustainability 2) Food and Health options and; 3) Economic Growth. We are sourcing high quality certified hemp seeds, educating members, advocating for equitable access, and helping to negotiate national and international production agreements using our expertise to facilitate market complexities that many farmers find difficult to navigate.

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

The co-op has forged national and international partnerships to procure seeds, clear licensing requirements, and source end-user contracts for members to grow Industrial Hemp in 2020.  We are currently qualifying up to 50-100 farmers to grow for this upcoming season and participate in our first equitable market access project to grow farmer profits. As a cooperative, we emphasize the need for access to education and information and require coaching for farmers who grow for our network.  We are partnering with industry experts to provide training on the latest techniques and best practices for our farmer members to produce high-quality crops for our processing partners. 

We have sourced high quality certified hemp seeds, and are educating members, advocating for equitable access, engaging in university partnerships, and helping to negotiate national and international production agreements using our expertise to facilitate market complexities that many farmers find difficult to navigate. 

With its new legal status, hemp cultivation is also on the rise in many states in the U.S. For example, cultivation in Colorado in 2019 is expected to be more than double 2018, and in Oregon, it’s projected to jump by 225%. The amount of approved hemp acreage in Kentucky will triple in 2019, and in Tennessee, there will be more than 12-times the acreage in 2020 compared to 2019.

The global industrial hemp market size is projected to grow from USD 4.6 billion in 2019 to USD 26.6 billion by 2025. The exponential growth of this industry creates multiple opportunities to lead and change the narrative of traditional agriculture.  Our presence in the market alone changes the old narrative that excludes women and people of color; and degrades valuable land, misuses resources, and leaves the farmer in economic straights. Hemp may be cultivated as a renewable source for raw materials that can be implemented into numerous products. It is a lucrative rotation crop for farmers and has attractive environmental benefits as well, attributing to its ability to take in CO2, detoxify the soil, and inhibit soil erosion.

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

This year the co-op offers certified seeds and will provide them to members at a rate substantially lower than market standard prices. We are sourcing a variety of seeds and will include patented and unpatented seeds in our catalog. In addition, to selling top trending and demand seeds, the co-op will sell clones, industrial seeds, and related CBD plant products. We will contract with breeders to develop new lines of seeds specific for our growing zones which will allow us to create better seeds for our target market.  Using a patented seed box container system along with innovative plant production and seed development technologies, we are strongly positioned to distribute our own unique line of hemp seeds a raw material that is sorely lacking in the US supply chain. 

Our technology is designed to increase output at a rate that is at least double the traditional yield of plants and seeds and we return these savings to our members and investors.  This allows us to increase crop yields and significantly reduce production and operational expenses (by more than 50%) of the industry standard. 

With our technology and resources, we will exceed our goal to produce at least 1,000 acres of hemp for the first 2020 growing season providing access to a profitable crop market to farmers in our networks.  With our technology, assistance, and partnership farmers' crops will increase their farm revenue by at least 25% and investments in the farm business will exceed production costs by at least 30% as a result of 40 Acre Co-op membership.

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

We are creating a new narrative for Black farmers in the U.S. and helping them to put their land back into production. We are creating green jobs, encouraging regenerative agriculture and changing the future of farmers around the world by empowering our members to fully participate in the agricultural economy. 

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • Prize partners

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Thank you so much for the Food Extension Initiative.