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Articles / Food with Mark Bittman: Olivia Watkins and Karen Washington

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Food with Mark Bittman: Olivia Watkins and Karen Washington

Published February 8, 2023

Two amazing women working to see a thriving and racially just agricultural ecosystem


Wednesday, as you know, is Food with Mark Bittman day, and we’ve got an important one for you this week.

New York State has 57,000 farmers, but only 139 of them are Black. Our guests today are both trying to remedy that situation and help those existing Black farmers to become more successful.

My partner (in life, not business) Kathleen Finlay, President of the Glynwood Center for Regional Food in Farming, joined me as co-host this week (Kate is back next week), and we talked to Karen Washington and Olivia Watkins, founders of the Black Farmer Fund.

“We started to say that this food system is not for us, or by us. And if we’re going to wait for the knight in shining armor, and we’re going to wait for capital to fall from the sky, we already know the negativity and the racial injustice when it came to the USDA, in the past, when it came to working with Black farmers — this is something that we have to do on our own.” — Karen Washington

Karen is a native New Yorker, a farmer, activist, and the founder of Black Urban Growers. Olivia has made it her goal to build a resilient food ecosystem and community investment fund to better support Black farmers — yes, the Black Farmer Fund.

This is a relevant, even critical conversation, and I’m really glad to share it with you.  

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