These men are helping BIPOC farmers to acquire lands and grow their agribusinesses

BY Ben Ebuka Oji January 24, 2024 11:59 AM EDT
The Founders of Ujamaa Farmer Collective. Photo Credit: Ujamaa Collective

Throughout the years, African-Americans have experienced significant marginalization within the agricultural sector of the United States. In 1920, approximately one million Black farmers cultivated 41.4 million acres of land, constituting a substantial portion of farm owners. However, by 2020, Black farmers have drastically declined to around 49,000 individuals, representing 1.4 percent of farm owners. These farmers now tend to a meager 4.7 million acres, signifying an alarming loss of nearly 90 percent.

The phenomenon is not without cause. Over the years, Black farmers have continued to struggle for access to fertile land as a result of a long-standing history of discriminatory policies and land confiscation. However, the development of sustainable agriculture owes a great deal to the contributions of Black agriculturalists, and Ujamaa Farmer Collective, a Black non-profit cooperative, is actively working towards increasing awareness about the flawed system.

Ujamaa Farmer Collective, founded by Nelson Hawkins, Nathaniel Brown, and Keith Hudson, aims to tackle the problem by providing BIPOC farmers access to land for their agricultural enterprises. Their objective is to empower historically marginalized farmers by establishing a cooperative ownership model for land.

Ujamaa is a Swahili term denoting cooperation. It encompasses the principles of cooperative economics and progress. It represents a socialist framework of village cooperatives established in the 1960s under the leadership of Julius Nyerere to promote equality of opportunity and self-help. This system was the foundation for Nyerere’s social and economic development strategies in Tanzania.

According to Hawkins, Ujamaa aims to uplift the potential of every individual, fostering an environment where all can flourish.

 It (Ujamaa Farmer Collective) will “elevate everybody’s potential so [we] can all thrive,” Hawkins says.

Ujamaa aims to foster a distinct awareness. Through communal land ownership and control over its utilization, the founders have paved the way for redistributing resources to BIPOC farmers, enabling them to strengthen their community, amplify their voices, and gain an advantage in the pursuit of food sovereignty.


The Ujamaa Farmer Collective is dedicated to furthering a long-term and intergenerational collaborative endeavor aimed at offering farmers of color fair and equal opportunities. Its primary focus is on guaranteeing secure land tenure and providing historically underserved farmers of color with equitable access to resources.

The collective extends its support to Black farmers through various means, such as providing them with lands, tools, and equipment (both new and used) and organizing regular fundraising campaigns across multiple platforms. In addition to assisting active farmers, the funds raised are utilized to employ young individuals and enhance food security for local families.

According to BOTWC, after a series of advocacy initiatives to the California legislature, Ujamaa Farmer Collective successfully secured a substantial grant of $1.25 million in 2022, to acquire a medium-sized plot of land in Yolo County. This will facilitate the operation of multiple farms, each occupying individual plots ranging from half an acre to five acres. Furthermore, this collaborative endeavor ensures that every farm will have a say in the collective governance and enjoy access to shared resources.

The Founders

Aside from the Ujamaa Farmer Collective, the three founders own separate farms and have remained active in the agricultural sector for many years.

Nathaniel Brown’s journey into gardening was guided by his grandmother, Arlene Ray, and her knowledge of plant medicine. In her younger years, Arlene not only cultivated a garden to provide for her family but also nurtured a stunning flower garden and backyard orchard in her later years. Nathaniel feels immense gratitude for having grown up consuming the produce from this land. As he developed a passion for naturally grown agriculture, he realized the significance of farming and decided to establish Brown Sugar Farm. Through urban farming, Nathaniel now brings a variety of vegetables, flowers, and fruits to the local farmers market.

Nelson Hawkins is from We Grow Farms, a farm that prioritizes community engagement and has a mission to provide top-notch seasonal fruits and vegetables to meet the demands of the local community and nearby markets.