Recognizing and Dismantling Systemic Racism at Northeast SARE

June 5, 2023

Agriculture cannot be sustainable without being equitable. SARE is one of many USDA grant programs now trying to redress systemic racism.

Systemic racism (also called structural or institutional racism) is the complex interactions of practices, ideologies, and programs that produce and perpetuate inequities for racial minorities. These macro-level mechanisms are independent of intentions and actions of individuals, so that even if individual racism is not present, inequalities for racial minorities continue to exist.

Systemic racism has shaped the history of the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program. Established by Congress in 1985 and first funded in 1988, SARE was designed by and for privileged entities in agricultural research and education, specifically 1862 land grant institutions and their key state and federal partners.

The SARE legislation addressed practices that improved the economic, environmental, and social well-being in agriculture, but there was no acknowledgment that a truly sustainable food system can only be achieved with full inclusion of people with different cultural and scientific experiences, needs, and perspectives.

People of color’s contributions to agriculture in the Northeast have been critical. Long before the colonization of the northeastern United States, Indigenous cultures maintained food sovereignty. The agricultural labor of enslaved Black people formed the foundation of U.S. wealth. Latino people and other foreign-born farm employees of color produce most of the food we eat.

After 30 years of grant making, the Northeast SARE Administrative Council launched a Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice (DEIJ) Strategic Planning process to explore equity in our grant making. The strategic planning process brought to light the considerable impact of systemic racism in our grantmaking.

This report, prepared by Northeast SARE staff, details the process, results and recommendations of the DEIJ Strategic Plan passed by the Administrative Council in February, 2022.

Related Locations: Northeast