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Selling the Farm

Updated: Jul 19, 2023

Many people have said “it’s courageous” we chose farming. Others have said “we thought about it and know others who have as well but never did it, so kudos to you guys !”

Although the intent of those words are to encourage and support us, it’s appalling how many people DON’T know actually how impossible and dangerous it is to farm as a POC in America.

Did you know that Asians make up less than 1% of all US farmers / farm owners / producers ? Did you know that the share of Black farmers has declined significantly over the last century;

today just 1.4 percent of farmers identify as Black.

1 & 1.4%

If we let those numbers settle in a bit then the heaviness of our journey might be more apparent.

Figure 1: Salwah Khan (June 17, 2021). Enjoying the sun and pondering.

Born and raised in the Bronx NY, I wanted to farm because I liked organic skincare and organic smoothies. I didn’t know anything about farming except for the scientific backbone due to my educational background. I was studying to become a doctor, I scribed in the emergency room for over two years, I interned at a hospital in Spain for a month, I shadowed surgeons at Einstein Hospital, I worked in multiple urgent cares, took my MCAT but then it really hit me: the chain reaction.

The real chain reaction : the food with the least nutrients is provided to the communities with the most hospitals

I thought to myself, why would I work in a hospital in those communities instead of lessening the triage of patients for illnesses that really can be healed through food?

That’s where one of the main concepts of “health” came from for our business .

The concept of buying land and farming on it, is so unknown to everyone we went to school with or family members here in the states. After seeing the statistics, it makes sense why: besides the capital and cost it requires to build infrastructure on the farm and to prep the soil while also protecting your livestock, fencing your property while also introducing roads, electricity,… it’s actually impossible for POC to do this dream and it’s not for the reasons you may think.

If you look at the 20 best movies and documentaries about farming published by Agronomag, the relatability is a bit difficult for Asian and black farmers. If you look up the covers for Nursery Magazine, you might not see people of other skin tones.

How can a Bangladeshi-American “farmer” from the Bronx “fit in” to receive the proper documentation, paperwork, leases, taxes & privacy, rights, protection and respect if those around that farmer are none like him or her?

According to the USDA: In 2017, the United States had 25,310 producers who identified as Asian, either alone or in combination with another race. They accounted for 0.7 percent of the country's 3.4 million producers, and are highly concentrated in California and Hawaii.

In NY itself, there are no other Bangladeshi farmers who OWN the land and aim to provide agritourism, farming education, organic produce, farming leases, migrant jobs, and modern farming for high production farming especially during GDP losses in agriculture.

FIgure 2: Salwah Khan (June 11, 2021). Feeling accomplished after hand tilling and realizing the soil is the best soil for growing ANYTHING.

We are not saying this to toot our own horns. While we know we have worked extremely hard to be able to own land in NYS as 28 & 31 year olds, with the support of our families, we also know many others could and should have been able to do this.

A little introduction to some of the things POC farmers face would be the case of Courtney and Nicole Mallory from El Paso Colorado.

According to CBS news:

Courtney and Nicole Mallory are two Black farmers who are facing racism online and in person as they own 1,000 acres in El Paso County to the point where there property is being vandalized and they are being harrassed.

“We are stalked, we are harassed, we are chased, we are followed, there's been spray paint where they put 'n*****' on items on our home," Nicole Mallery said. The El Paso County Sheriffs office states receiving 170 calls from the individuals stated in the story.

In 2023, black farmers, Asian farmers are still being harassed, endangered, and illegally sent to the criminal system over land legally owned.

President Joe Biden signed a Covid relief package into law earlier this year. It included $4 billion to help pay off farm loans for socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers a group that includes Black and other minority farmers. However, the loan disparities persist as White farmers are suing over what they say is discriminatory language by Biden.

That’s why, everyone wants us to say: we are selling the farm. “It will bring you a peace of mind.” “They’re gonna get you for not letting it go.” “It’s not safe there anymore, just sell it.”

The local government, town, sheriffs office, state troopers, are committing acts that go against the constitution and our natural bill of rights .. for what reason? Because we want to farm? We want to have animals? We want a home to live in? We would like to breath in clean air? We want to provide organic food to underprivileged neighborhoods? We want to provide jobs during this economy ? We want to provide a space for refugees and migrants? We want to practice was humanity is and not farm for the purpose of just corn and hay? We want to conserve wildlife?

If these questions are answered by those harassing POC farmers with honesty not pertaining to racism, white rights & intimidation, we can maybe understand why in 2023 are people still forcing black, Asian and indigenous farmers to “sell their land?”

So the big question is: should we sell or do we continue to farm and fight?


Salwah Khan

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