Published Jul 12, 2022

Broadening Our Big Tent

By Practical Farmers of Iowa

Practical Farmers has actively sought out a greater diversity of members these past few years, in response to member feedback and board leadership. The following statement describes our commitment to broadening our big tent.

Practical Farmers of Iowa’s mission is to equip farmers to build resilient farms and communities. Welcoming everyone and creating a culture of mutual respect have always been core PFI values.

We believe that a rich tapestry of farm types, sizes, practices and philosophies creates a more resilient and inclusive agricultural landscape. We also believe that a “big tent” filled with people of diverse backgrounds and perspectives enriches our understanding and broadens our impact.

Inviting Everyone to the Table

In all our gathering spaces, we strive for an environment where everyone – farmers of all types and philosophies, members, employees, volunteers, partners and guests – feels valued, heard, represented and respected. As we continue to work towards a resilient and inclusive agricultural landscape, it is imperative that we redouble our efforts to embody our core value of welcoming everyone.

We are committed to ensuring that everyone – regardless of race, ethnicity, cultural background, social or political identity, education, economic status or ability – feels not just welcome but invited to engage with PFI, and has equal access to our network, programs and resources.

Empowering All Farmers to Overcome Barriers

We envision a future where healthy soil, healthy food, clean air, clean water, resilient farms and vibrant communities are a reality for all –and where all who wish to farm are empowered to do so.

We also know that broadening our “big tent” means building authentic relationships, understanding the varied needs and barriers of all those we work with – and providing support and resources to match. Part of inhabiting the big tent is honestly examining, identifying and addressing all forms of discrimination.

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Our Commitments

We commit to inviting and welcoming everyone by:

  • Building relationships with farmers and aspiring farmers facing barriers of any kind, and providing support to address those barriers
  • Intentionally uplifting farmers and aspiring farmers of color, both within PFI and the agricultural communities in which we live and work
  • Collaborating with people and organizations in Iowa and across the Midwest, in all sectors, who can help us invite, welcome and support everyone
  • Establishing and maintaining a welcoming workplace
  • Evaluating our progress frequently, as this important work must be impactful and ongoing

Work in Action

Hannah Scates Kettler

Hannah Scates Kettler

Hannah Scates Kettler started Minerva’s Meadow in 2020 near State Center, Iowa. Minerva’s Meadow is a no-till organic flower farm with an emphasis on prairie flowers. She has participated in PFI by attending meetings organized for farmers of color to come together and share their experiences.

Hannah says: “The work PFI is doing is essential, especially in places like Iowa, with farmers of color being a huge minority. I have seen, through the work of Celize Christy, that PFI is driven to address and commit to concerns that align well with farmers of color: centering community, building networks of resilience, regenerative agriculture and recognizing the foundation that farmers of color have made for agriculture.

“It’s an organization that’s finally, on some level, aware of the need for space for these conversations, these practices and these areas of activity and concern in the farming community. These spaces have been crucial to my sense of belonging and provided opportunities for networking within PFI that have made my transition to farming so much more supported than would otherwise be.

“Without this kind of network and programming, I’d feel very much without a community to lean on or a bank of such knowledge from which to draw.”

Inspiring Others

At PFI’s 2022 annual conference, Shaffer Ridgeway and DaQuay Campbell shared what led them to begin their farm journeys. They also discussed the farming and urban agricultural work they are currently engaged in and how their agricultural efforts have impacted them and their families. This session – “Why Are There so Few Black Farmers in Iowa? Narratives and Perspectives From Two Black Iowa Farmers” – attracted a full house: 87 people gathered to learn from Shaffer and DaQuay.

One attendee, Paul Hoffman, from Earlville, Illinois, came to the conference to speak about his organic cropping experiences and expected to glean more agronomic information from other sessions. He said of this session:

“Little did I know that the most deeply meaningful session would be one where I gained NO knowledge on how to grow my crops. The open and heartfelt sharing in the session with Shaffer Ridgeway and DaQuay Campbell touched my heart in a very profound way.

“As a white man from a multi-generational farming background, I have become acutely aware of my position of privilege, but have been unsure of what I can do and how to leverage that to serve the needs of Black farmers and other farmers from underrepresented cultures and communities. This session gives me hope, knowing that I am part of an organization that is willing to welcome minority voices to the table to strengthen our farming communities and progress toward a community that is welcoming and serving the needs of all farmers.”

Paul has since provided financial support and expressed interest in providing land access to help farmers of color access meaningful careers in farming.

Please contact Sally Worley, if:

  • You’d like more information about our farmer of color network development plan and progress
  • You want to learn how to be involved in these efforts
  • You have ideas of communities of farmers or aspiring farmers of color that PFI should reach out to