As co-founder of Farms to Grow, Inc., Air Force Veteran, filmmaker, cultural anthropologist, and NAFSN’s leadership circle chair, and a self-declared “activist for black farmers,” Dr. Gail Myers has been at the forefront of advocating and leading agricultural justice for underserved farmers. Dr. Myers received her Doctorate in Anthropology from The Ohio State University. Starting from her time in Ohio, she proactively worked to address the lack of narrative on Black farmers.
In 2001, while in her doctoral program, Dr. Myers organized Ohio’s very first statewide conference for African American farmers called “Sustaining Communities: Ohio’s Black Farmers at the Crossroads.” This conference raised the issue of the declining trend of Black farmers and provided an opportunity for farmers to network and brainstorm solutions.
In 2004, upon graduation, Dr. Myers continued her transformative work by co-founding Farms to Grow, Inc. in Oakland, California. Farms to Grow is a 501c3 nonprofit organization with a mission of building the capacity of underserved farmers to sustain and establish viable farm operations.
Dr. Myers’ proactive leadership did not stop in here. Rather, she has continued to raise awareness in California. In 2005, she served as the conference coordinator for the 19th Small Farm Conference. In 2013, Farms to Grow, Inc.., started the Freedom Farmers’ Market in West Oakland. The Freedom Farmers’ Market continues to run between June and November to continue their mission of bringing foods from surrounding socially disadvantaged farmers into Oakland. Dr. Myers emphasizes that the Freedom Farmers’ Market was intentionally located to be an area experiencing food apartheid. She explains, “We [as an organization] were not interested in going uptown or downtown but the part of town where the people didn’t have resources. The organization is all about mending a particular gap, the gap in the story of who the farmers are and that have built this country.”
This evident communication gap has led Dr. Myers to work on producing a documentary film called “Rhythms of the Land.” In this film, Dr. Myers shares her Black interviews farmers, sharecroppers, gardeners, and a weaver, during her 2012 tour around 10 southern states. Her mission was to increase the visibility of the harsh realities governing underserved farmers.
Dr. Myers’ work has gained national attention and recognition. In 2015, the Root Magazine recognized Dr. Myers as one of seven US urban farmers you should know. In 2017, Dr. Myers was part of the leadership team that forwarded the Farmer Equity Act in California, the first state law that recognized and prioritized socially disadvantaged farmers. In 2018, Dr. Myers received the “Justie” award, also known as the Advocates for Social Justice in Sustainable Agriculture award, from the Ecological Farming Association. She continues to be recognized for her work. Most recently (as of March 2019), she was recognized in an elementary school in North Carolina for Black History Month.
For more information on Farms to Grow, Inc., check out our Sustainable Food Systems Sourcebook listing: http://www.fssourcebook.org/index.php/farms-to-grow-inc.