NFFC is featuring a different member organization each month. This month we're showcasing the Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA, otherwise known as RAFI-USA.
Since their founding in 1990, RAFI-USA has recognized that the food system is deeply inequitable, where rural communities — their land, animals, and people — are exploited to benefit corporate power structures. Working across agricultural sectors and collaboratively through coalitions, RAFI-USA combines on–the-ground practical services and policy advocacy to ensure farmers have access to the tools they need to make the right choices for their farm and families as well as for their communities and the environment.
RAFI-USA takes a whole system approach to change through policy work and their integrated program areas: Challenging Corporate Power, Come to the Table, Expanding Farmers Market Access, Farm Advocacy, Farmers of Color of Network, and Just Foods.
Challenging Corporate Power
The Challenging Corporate Power program fights the unchecked corporate control of our food system that affects each of us. This unchecked control has created a dramatic imbalance of power between farmers and corporations that has significantly contributed to the loss of independent farmers and rural economic vibrancy. Corporations have been given carte-blanche to pursue profits at the expense of farmers, workers, and rural communities. They work with a broad base of stakeholders to fight corporate power. Together farmers, workers, environmental activists, animal welfare groups, and others will build an equitable food system that is economically, racially, and ecologically just.
Come to the Table
Come to the Table is a multifaceted program that focuses on systemic solutions to food access that also strengthen just and sustainable agriculture. The program works with faith communities, hunger relief advocates, and farmers to engage and mobilize them on issues of food access and justice in the food system. The program delivers conferences and events, technical assistance, training focused on building equity in the food system, and collaborative networks and resources.
Expanding Farmers Market Access
Farmers markets and other direct-to-consumer markets are an invaluable component of strong local and regional food systems, for both farmers and their surrounding community. The Expanding Farmers Market Access supports the development of resilient, dependable, and accessible direct-to-consumer markets that lead to stronger farm viability and community food security. The program coordinates nutrition incentive programs across North Carolina as well as provides technical assistance to farmer collectives, farmers markets, and faith communities in the development of alternative local food marketplaces.
RAFI-USA farmer advocates provide assistance, guidance, and administrative representation to save or strengthen farms. When farmers are in financial crisis, they’re there to answer their call. From representing farmers in USDA matters to navigating disasters, our work is grounded in the needs of each farmer. They provide expert knowledge on complex financial issues, combined with more than three decades of experience fighting to keep family farmers on their land. They serve diverse farms across the Southeast, ranging from small, specialty operations to livestock and commodity operations on thousands of acres. Through their work, they have a number of tools and resources for farmers and advocates. Access RAFI’s library of publications and farmer resources.
Farmers of Color Network
Farmers of color in the U.S. have long been disadvantaged by systemic and institutional racism, including discrimination in accessing credit, loans, resources, and markets. As a result, farmers of color make up just 4% of all U.S. farmers.
RAFI-USA founded the Farmers of Color Network in 2017 to support these farmers and grow their numbers. The Network provides farmer-led technical assistance, outreach, and funding opportunities, as well as hosting farm tours, networking events, and gatherings to highlight ancestral traditions and knowledge, as well as exploring market solutions.
From promoting meaningful standards for organic agriculture to pioneering new standards for social justice in the food system, Just Foods projects seek to make fair, sustainable farming a viable choice. Protecting agricultural genetic diversity is also essential to the viability of family farms. Just Foods advocates for funding for classical breeding programs and support of publicly held seeds and breeds.
Farmer Crisis Hotline
Farming is a challenging job, and sometimes things happen beyond farmers’ control. Farm crises take many forms and can result from many different situations – disasters, droughts, low grain or cattle prices, low yield, etc. Seeking assistance early may provide them more options.
Farmers in danger of losing their farm and/or home, or just needing to talk to someone, may call the RAFI-USA hotline toll-free at 866/586-6746. The hotline is open Monday-Saturday, 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM Eastern Time.
Learn more about this incredible organization at rafiusa.org.