Although people of color make up about a third of North Carolina’s rural population, 95 percent of agricultural producers in the state are white, according to the 2017 Census of Agriculture.
A number of North Carolina organizations and farmers are working to make the agricultural workforce a more inclusive space.
The Motivate and Educate for Achievement Center is a collaboration of historically Black colleges and universities established under the Second Morrill Act of 1890, seeking to “increase the diversity of the agricultural workforce" in the United States, according to its website.
Misty Blue-Terry and Paula E. Faulkner are co-directors of the MEA Center, which operates through N.C. A&T in Greensboro.
Blue-Terry said the center’s mission is so important because of the United States' growing diverse population and the agricultural industry should reflect that.
“We need to be contributors to this research, as well as just understanding what some of those cultural nuances are so that we can just be better prepared in all areas,” she said.
One of Faulkner’s former students, Brielle Wright, now operates the Farmer’s B.A.G (Blessed, Abundant, Gifted) with her sister, Michelle. In 2020, the pair began making jams and jellies, eventually pivoting to focusing on the needs of farmers and engaging youth in agriculture programs.
Wright said she works to teach students of color about the range of careers in agriculture, and her goal is for them to be prepared to have leadership roles in their community.
“There’s such a huge generational gap in the field of agriculture and it has to be closed so we’ve got to prepare this next generation,” she said.