BIPOC Farmers in Indiana
Hey everyone! My name is Isabella DeMarco and I am a Sophomore here at IU studying International Studies and Environmental and Sustainability Studies. I joined the Critical Food Studies lab this January 2021 and have really enjoyed getting to know other individuals passionate about the intersection of food and social justice.
At the beginning of Fall 2020 I was admitted into the Sustainable Scholars program run out of the IU Office of Sustainability. I was assigned to a project working alongside the amazing faculty members, Dr. Angela Babb, Dr. Julia Valliant, and Dr. Kurt Waldman, all affiliated with Sustainable Food Systems Science. Our project is designing an antiracist research platform to study racial equity within the Indiana agricultural system.
Although the project is constantly evolving, we intend to produce an annotated bibliography and a collection of pilot interviews with African American farmers in Indiana. The annotated bibliography will include a list of literature on the historical and present day experiences of BIPOC farmers in Indiana. The pilot interviews seek to decipher what is being left out of research on Black farmers in Indiana, and also give us insight into what needs to happen in future research regarding the topic.
As expected, the annotated bibliography process has been less fruitful than we would have hoped. Using the PSALSAR literature review method, we have found that many sources available on search engines such as Google Scholar, ProQuest, the Indiana University Libraries and many other databases do not specifically address our research topic. There is literature on racial discrimination within the United States agricultural system as a whole; however, few sources focused on this issue in Indiana exists.
This notion has been brought up in the pilot interviews with Black farmers from around the state. We have currently interviewed five farmers, and each have echoed the claim that there is a severe lack of research into racial discrimination of BIPOC farmers in Indiana. Although the research community may not yet be aware of or acknowledge the underlying issues these farmers have faced in the past and are still facing now, every individual I spoke with is involved with one or more projects promoting BIPOC individuals and communities in agriculture.
Owning land and farming for these African American individuals serves a form of resistance and resilience. Learning about these individuals farming stories has been incredibly enlightening and uplifting, but it also underlines the crucial need for their stories to be heard and the oppressive system to be changed and exposed. I look forward to continuing to learn more about how research can contribute to addressing this need for justice.
Siddharth Das and Stephanie Levitt
The Real Food Challenge is a movement to push large institutions to support locally, ethically, humanely, and sustainably sourced food to restructure food industry practices as a whole. At Indiana University, we’re hoping to create a network of local food producers and strengthen their place in the food system.
At a university level, we are working with current vendors to shift their practices to meet the Real Food guidelines; as students, we’re pushing the university to commit to purchasing at least 25% of their food to meet these guidelines by 2025. We’re hoping to connect with other students about the Real Food Challenge through posters and videos. See past reports and more information.
History of diversity and effects of discrimination in the Indiana food system
Hi all! My name is Lucy Lippman, and I’m a junior at IU studying mathematics, economics, geography, and French. I’ve been passionate about sustainability since my high school environmental science class, and joining the Critical Food Studies lab during my sophomore year has shown me how just and local food systems coexist with environmental sustainability in the state.
Last fall, I was admitted into the Sustainability Scholars program, and I worked with Dr. Shellye Suttles, Dr. Angela Babb, and Claire Frohman on a paper exploring the history of diversity and effects of discrimination in the Indiana food system. Specifically, I’ve been looking at metrics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the Census, the Department of Agriculture (USDA), and other national agencies for data on food system employment and food assistance program participation by race, ethnicity, and gender.
For the most part, the methodology I’ve been following comes from a document by the Michigan State University (MSU) Center for Regional Food Systems. To understand trends in food system employment across demographics, a lot of MSU’s metrics revolve around wages. Unfortunately, relevant data on wages and demographics are published only nationally, not at a regional or state level. To best understand employment trends by race, gender, and ethnicity in Indiana, we created the Specific Occupation Adjusted Percentage (SOAP) Index to illustrate the difference between the percentage of a demographic in an occupational field and the percentage of that same demographic in the entire Indiana labor force. For instance, in 2010, 3.37% of all workers in food preparation and serving-related occupations, as defined by BLS, were Black men, while Black men made up 3.13% the Hoosier labor force at that time. The resulting SOAP index is -.24%. The small magnitude denotes no large difference between the Black male composition of the workforce and of food preparation and serving-related occupations, while the negative signage indicates the given demographic is more represented in the Indiana workforce than in the specific occupation. Large magnitudes and positive signages represent the opposite. The SOAP Index evaluates for equity, presuming that an equitable employment system will not exhibit large differences between the composition of the labor force and the composition of workers in specific occupations. It assumes freedom of choice, of mobility, and of cultural axioms that would otherwise impact the demographic compositions of certain occupational fields.
This semester, I’m continuing work on the diversity metrics paper, fine-tuning my work from last semester and making it more cohesive with Shellye’s, Angela’s, and Claire’s work on the subject. I’ve also joined Dr. Knudsen on a working paper observing service accessibility in the rural Indiana Uplands. I look forward to continuing with the Critical Food Studies Lab, researching inequity in Indiana.