TODAY: Free, virtual Black Farming Conference returns in Yellow Springs

Beginning today, the conference is a rare opportunity to experience an expert-led lesson on the influential history of Black farmers in Ohio and participate in preparing the next generation of underrepresented farmers. Photographed in this photo is 2021 Black Farming Conference keynote speaker, Malik Yakini. (Tony Cenicola/The New York Times)
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Beginning today, the conference is a rare opportunity to experience an expert-led lesson on the influential history of Black farmers in Ohio and participate in preparing the next generation of underrepresented farmers. Photographed in this photo is 2021 Black Farming Conference keynote speaker, Malik Yakini. (Tony Cenicola/The New York Times)

Credit: TONY CENICOLA

Credit: TONY CENICOLA

After a successful inaugural event in 2020, Yellow Springs’ Agraria Center for Regenerative Practice is once again hosting the Black Farming: Community Land & Food Sovereignty Conference.

Beginning today, the conference is a a rare opportunity to experience an expert-led lesson on the influential history of Black farmers in Ohio and participate in preparing the next generation of underrepresented farmers.

Last year, even with the entire conference being virtual and it only being the first iteration of the event, about 400 people showed up for the entirety of the conference weekend.

“It was really received well,” said Ariella Brown, the 2021 conference chair and associate director of Gender Equity Programs & Education at Antioch College. “They thought the conference was very well organized, and so the (participants) said, ‘Would you all be willing to provide … more resources on a consistent basis?’ So what we decided to do is start a Black Farming Network out of Agraria.”

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Since last year’s successes, the network has been holding quarterly round table meetings. Brown said the hope for this year’s conference is to continue to build on that growing network’s progress and begin to discuss what a Black farming cooperative program would look like in the Dayton community.

“(By supporting our underrepresented farmers), naturally the community is going to benefit because we owe our livelihoods to farmers,” Brown said. “Literally, their sweat equity is what we consume every single day. So, regardless of what color they are, you don’t know what color someone is when you go to the grocery store, and, you’re, you know, buying something.”

This year’s conference focuses on the economic impacts and the power of the cooperative business model with an emphasis on the power of growing your own food. Initiatives include seed saving, community gardening and celebrating the contributions of the region’s Black and underrepresented food and farming community.

“Food is what connects us,” Brown said. “So, supporting our Black and underrepresented farmers is important because they are often left out of the conversation. And we know that Black and underrepresented farmers, specifically, really have a story to tell.”

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This year’s prominent keynote speakers include:

-Leah Penniman, author of “Farming While Black: Soul Fire Farm’s Practical Guide to Liberation on the Land”

-Malik Yakini, co-founder and executive director of the Detroit Black Community Food Security

-Dr. Jessica Gordon Nembhard, author of “Collective Courage: A History of African American Cooperative Economic Thought and Practice”

-Ira Wallace, owner/ worker of the cooperatively managed Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

This year’s conference is primarily virtual, though there are a couple opportunities for in-person experiences, such as a tour of the Gem City Market with a meet-and-greet with Yakini. However, all in-person events require advanced registration, and there is a wait list for some of the events.

According to the events’ website, the 2021 conference lineup includes:

Friday, September 10, 2021

-Gem City Market Tour & Meet and Greet with Malik Yakini – Advanced Registration only

Coop Dayton will be hosting a tour of Gem City Market, where participants can learn how a group of urban citizens cooperated to bring food access to a divested community through a full-service grocery store.

To register for the free conference, visit blackfarmingconference2021.eventbrite.com.

Time: 12 p.m.

Location: Gem City Market, 324 Salem Ave. Dayton, Ohio 45405

-Farm & Research Tours at Central State University – Advanced Registration only Time: 3 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Location: Central State University, Main Campus

*All attendees to park at the Water Tower

Description: Central State University Land Grant Programs will be hosting tours at the CSU Research and Extension Farm at the campus in Wilberforce. Tours will include research and demonstrations for: aquaponics, hemp, soil health, organic weed control, sweet potato trials, high amylase corn, and honey bee genetics.

Friday, September 10, 2021

Evening Keynote Address by Dr. Jessica Gordon Nembhard, Author of Collective Courage: A History of African-American Economic Thought and Practice

Moderator: Dr. Kevin McGruder, Historian & Professor, Antioch College

Time: 7 p.m.

Location: Virtual on Zoom. There is a limited in-person watch party hosted by the National Afro-American Museum & Cultural Center (NAAMCC). Pre registration required.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Conference Start Time: 9:30 a.m.

Welcome & Introductions: 9:45 a.m.

Location: Virtual

10 a.m. to 10:45 a.m.: Keynote Address: Malik Yakini, Co-founder & Executive Director, Detroit Black Community Food Security Network

11 a.m. to 11:45 a.m.: Keynote Address: Leah Penniman, Co-founder, Soul Fire Farm & Author of Farming While Black

12 p.m. to 1 p.m.: Moderated Discussion with Leah Penniman & Malik Yakini

1 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.: Break

1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. Breakout Sessions – 45 min. Breakout sessions to run concurrently; 1:30 p.m. to 2:15 p.m.; 2:15 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Breakout Session 1A - 1:30 p.m. to 2:15 p.m.: Detroit Black Community Food Security Session Presented by Malik Yakini

Breakout Session 1B - 1:30 p.m. to 2:15 p.m.: Regenerative Farmer Fellowship Session Presented by Agraria Regenerative Farmer Fellows

Breakout Session 1C - 1:30 p.m. to 2:15 p.m.: Central State University Breakout Session Beginning Farmer Programs: Helping new farmers learn about production and business management while building communities. Presented by Central State University Extension.

Breakout Session 1D – 1:30 p.m. to 2:15 p.m.: Setting up and Protecting Your Business Presented by Nationwide Insurance and the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Breakout Session 2A - 2:15 p.m. to 3 p.m.: Detroit Black Community Food Security Session Presented by Malik Yakini

Breakout Session 2B - 2:15 p.m. to 3 p.m.: Central State University Breakout Session

Breakout Session 2C - 2:15 p.m. to 3 p.m.: Setting up and Protecting Your Business Presented by Nationwide Insurance and the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation

3 p.m. to 4 p.m.: Keynote Address: Ira Wallace, Acorn Community Farm and Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

4 p.m. to 5 p.m. : Where do we go from here? - Facilitated discussion

-Conference Adjourns