MIFFS Saginaw Chippewa Tribe 7th Generation Farm Hoophouse Build. (Photo via Facebook)
MIFFS Saginaw Chippewa Tribe 7th Generation Farm Hoophouse Build. (Photo via Facebook)

Michigan Food and Farming Systems (MIFFS) is beginning to approach the long history of racial injustice in agriculture and our current food system.

MICHIGAN ⁠— How does the farming industry begin to approach historical, systemic racial injustices and inequities whose effects are still being felt in the current age? 

One Michigan nonprofit’s answer: service. 

Michigan Food and Farming Systems (MIFFS) is acting in solidarity for racial justice by offering support services to BIPOC farmers applying for funding through the USDA’s new Urban Agriculture and Innovation Production (UAIP) Competitive Grants program.  

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“Michigan Food and Farming Systems (MIFFS) stands in solidarity with black communities who are fighting against systemic oppression and racism,” said the organization in a June 2020 statement. 

“ … For 20 years, MIFFS has supported the many faces of farming by connecting beginning and historically underserved farmers to resources and to each other, working towards social justice, environmental stewardship, and viability. As a farming organization, we acknowledge that the history of land and agriculture that shaped our current food system is steeped in racial injustice.” 

The organization’s work supports entrepreneurial farm business development by serving as the bridge between the resources of USDA service providers, knowledge of subject matter experts, and wisdom from diverse communities throughout Michigan.

MIFFS is demonstrating their commitment to using their power and privilege to fight for a just and equitable future in Michigan agriculture. 

In addition to keeping a living list of food and farming resources on their website, they’re offering support to BIPOC-led organizations and individuals submitting proposals to a newly announced $3 million in competitive grant funding from the USDA Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production.

“Michigan Food & Farming Systems feels strongly that USDA Urban Ag and Innovation funding should be allocated to BIPOC led organizations or individuals in recognition of their historical leadership in this space and acknowledgement of institutional racism in the US,” MIFFS said. 

According to the organization, urban agriculture generally refers to the cultivation, processing and distribution of agricultural products in urban and suburban settings, including things like vertical production, warehouse farms, community gardens, rooftop farms, hydroponic, aeroponic, and aquaponic facilities, and other innovations. 

Urban Agriculture and Innovation Production (UAIP) Competitive Grants funds will support the development of urban agriculture and innovative production projects through two categories: Planning Projects and Implementation Projects. 

More info on the grant is available here; the deadline to apply is July 6, 2020. 

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How MIFFS Is Offering Support

  • Making connections: MIFFS will help connect BIPOC farmers with additional grant team members, including nonprofits, community organizations, technical assistance providers, university and government agency staff, national partners, evaluators, and other farms they may want to collaborate with.
  • Proposal review and submission: MIFFS staff have lots of experience developing, writing and submitting USDA grants and navigating grants.gov, and they are happy to help BIPOC farmers in their efforts.

Other ways MIFFS can be a partner and offer services for the grant include: 

  • Facilitation services and network development 
  • Project results dissemination and outreach 
  • USDA program navigation and farm number registration technical assistance 
  • Food safety training and connection to Michigan GroupGAP  
  • Working lands natural resource management and environmental stewardship technical assistance, water quality management 
  • Interpretation of USDA technical language 
  • Record keeping technical assistance to improve eligibility for USDA programs, including crop insurance and federal disaster assistance 
  • Translation services  
  • Assistance with reporting 

You can support MIFFS’ work with a donation here

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