Conservation | Land Access | Org News

New funding program supports farmland acquisition for the Black Food Sovereignty Coalition

This past June, the Black Food Sovereignty Coalition (BFSC) met a major milestone in their efforts to ignite Black and Brown communities to participate as owners and movement leaders within food systems, placemaking, and economic development in the Pacific Northwest. The organization now holds a lease-to-own agreement on 43 acres of land in Centralia that they plan to establish as a food hub and farm incubator to support Black and Brown farmers in the region. 

This property was identified by the BFSC board of directors in 2022 as a priority land acquisition as a part of their strategic plan. Washington Farmland Trust was honored to have been invited to support the acquisition and conservation process as transitional landowners, and plan to transfer ownership of the property to BFSC at the close of their forthcoming capital campaign in a few years. At that time, Washington Farmland Trust will hold the conservation easement on the farm in perpetuity.

Photos from left: looking out over the Lincoln Creek Valley from the barn (Ilana Freddye); BFSC staff, board, and community members Eddie Hill, Allywatan Kwele, Damon Brangman, and Charles Hannah (courtesy of BFSC).

The land acquisition was funded by a new program of the Washington Housing Finance Commission known as FarmPAI (Farm Protection & Affordability Investment). The program allows land trusts to leverage its revolving loan fund of $4.5 million to make swift acquisitions and compete in the marketplace as a way to help reduce barriers to land access for historically marginalized food growers. Land trusts participating in the program have an obligation to conserve the land they purchase and then transition it to a long-term farmer within eight years. 

“This is a positive example of what Black and Brown folks can do when we have support in navigating systems that were not designed for us,” said Eddie Hill, Co-Director of the Black Food Sovereignty Coalition. “Preserving farmland, growing healthy food, stewarding the land – these principles are deeply rooted in African and Indigenous cultures. But our ability to live up to those principles has been completely stifled by a racist and extractive system. I’m grateful to hold up this land acquisition as an example of what’s possible.”

The farm is located in the Lincoln Creek Valley of Centralia and includes a primary residence that will house a number of members of the BFSC team, fully-fenced pasture, a large machine shop, a beautiful new barn, a greenhouse, a stable, and a residential well. There is a lower field on the property that BFSC plans to use for growing diversified vegetables, some of which will be donated to local food banks. The team plans to establish a food hub on the property – leveraging the barn for cold storage and other resources that neighboring farms in the region can use to create efficiencies and aggregate their distribution. Eddie sees the property not just as a lever in local food justice efforts, but as “an economic development engine” for the regional foodshed of Cascadia and the Pacific Northwest.

Photos from left: Allywatan Kwele on the farm (courtesy of BFSC); the property’s new barn (Ilana Freddye); neighboring cows grazing in the fields (Ilana Freddye).

“I’m already getting calls from neighboring farms asking ‘how did you do this?’,” said Eddie. “This project is unique, in context, but it doesn’t need to be. This is what equity looks like.”

Black Food Sovereignty Coalition will be launching a capital campaign on September 1, thanks to early support from Ceres Trust and the Kataly Foundation. The campaign will raise funds to support the build out of this new property. Follow along on their website and Instagram for more details and ways to support their efforts.