Iowa to host its premier gathering for black farmers

DES MOINES — The state’s first-ever Iowa Black Farmers Conference is planned to be held in Des Moines later this month.

Conference co-founder Todd Western the Third says his family has owned a farm near Waterloo for more than 150 years. Western says growing up, he only knew of one other black farmer in the state. He says it’s important for black farmers to know they’re not alone.  “This is significant because it’s bringing together farmers of color who are scattered across the state to foster a sense of belonging and community,” Western says. “It’s also supposed to be information sharing. This platform will provide access to crucial information from agriculture industry officials that might not typically come to smaller or more remote farm communities. And lastly, celebrating our contributions.”

After attending an event in North Carolina focused on black farmers, Western says he wanted to bring black farmers together in Iowa.  Western says, “Because I know how important it was for my son, who’s going to eventually — along with my nieces and nephews — take over the farm at some point, it’s important for them not to have the same experience that I had, thinking that we were the only ones.”

The conference is scheduled for December 16th. U.S.D.A. data from 2017 shows black farmers make up less than one-percent of the farmers in Iowa. Western says he hopes the Iowa Black Farmers Conference becomes an annual event and that it helps establish a network of black farmers that people can turn to in the future.