Black Dirt Farm Collective

Ecological land rights
A collective formed with the dual purpose of returning land to Black farmers, and Black farmers to the land—combining the politics of land rights with an ecological sensibility, supporting legislation, and advocating for linking decolonisation and climate action


“Over 12m acres of Black-owned land has been stolen in the last century.”1Shakara Tyler, ‘Farming out Loud’, RSA, 27 June 2022 <> [accessed 15 August 2022].

Black farmers only own around 0.5% of the total farmland in the USA, largely due to the systemic racism of farming subsidies. This inequity dates back to the legacy of giving “land subsidies to white settlers, one of the initial catalysts of societal inequalities enacted almost 160 years ago, [which] reverberate to unconscionable land access and ownership realities today”.2Ibid. The number of Black farmers in the USA dropped from nearly 1 million in 1920 to just over 35,000 in 2017. The exploitation of Black people and of land ran in parallel throughout the 20th century, particularly as Black farmers lost land to large-scale industrial farming ventures, which in turn meant environmental degradation. For Black Dirt Farm Collective (BDFC), these two forms of exploitation are inextricably related. 

“To be a returning-generation farmer means to revalorise our cultural identities and spiritual consciousness in service to our visions of a liveable planet.”3Ibid.


The Collective has its hub on a 9.7-hectare farm in Maryland, describing this farm as “an engine for Black cooperative economic development”.4Ibid. The Collective’s members however, who identify as a “returning generation” of Black farmers seeking land taken from them, are scattered across the Mid-Atlantic region of the USA, from Detroit to North Carolina.5Farmer’s Footprint, ‘Xavier Brown | The Black Dirt Farm Collective’, YouTube, 21 February 2022 <> [accessed 15 August 2022]. Together, members advocate for the healing of both land and farmer communities. They draw from principles of “Afroecology”, a term derived from “Agroecology” that advocates social-ecological transformation as an intergenerational and political process to re-evaluate  

“sacred relationships with land, water, air, seeds, and food while valuing the Afro-Indigenous ways of knowing and centring the struggles of the Black experience in the Americas”.6Tyler, Farming out Loud. 

Following this principle of social-ecological transformation, members combine a focus on food sovereignty with a larger project to achieve self-determination and solidarity. Through training and education programmes based around Afroecology, the Collective seeks to transition from an extractive to a regenerative economy. This transition is inseparable from one that undoes societal and racial injustices belonging to an extractive industrial system responsible for the production of climate breakdown and biodiversity crises. 

Central to the Collective’s work is the question of land and how to return it to Black farmers through legislation. So far, tackling this question has produced The Justice for Black Farmers Act, filed in 2020. If passed, this Act would issue land grants to Black farmers through the same legal procedure that prioritised white farmers historically.7Chuck Abbott, ‘“Justice” bill would transfer up to 32 million acres to Black farmers’, Successful Farming, 20 November 2020 <> [accessed 31 January 2023]; ‘Booker Leads Colleagues in Reintroducing the Justice for Black Farmers Act’, 26 January 2023 < Section by Section 11.16.20.pdf> [accessed 31 January 2023]. The Act explicitly links Black farming to climate stewardship practices, reinforcing the link encapsulated in the Collective’s name, “Black Dirt”, which reflects both the re-appearance of healthy, lively, organic soil, and the place of Black people within farming contexts.  

Through these practices in education, organising, and legislation, the Collective seeks to move away from a profit-driven industrial economy to one that is mutually healing of both land and community. Though locally situated, the Collective’s planetary understandings of climate and influences from diasporic cultures and histories of enslavement infuse its work with global resonances. Under an umbrella of decolonisation and anti-racism, the Collective simultaneously defends human and more-than-human ecological rights.  


External links

The Black Panther Party and the principle of “survival pending revolution”—working in communities and building collective power as well as providing material support 

Community Supported Agriculture—supports partnerships between farmers and consumers to create integrated food systems