Moorestown Friends Meeting: Black-owned Farming

The Anti-Racism Committee of Moorestown Friends Meeting seeks to identify political and legislative priorities to support anti-racism. Given the Meeting’s roots in NJ farming, one obvious area of interest is agriculture. The committee acknowledges the systemic racism that permeates agriculture and farming in the United States. US Senator Cory Booker has taken note of the relative paucity of Black-owned farmland not just in NJ but throughout our nation. The direct connection between discriminatory practices of the USDA and the status of Black farmers was first documented by government-sponsored reports in 1997. The discrimination primarily took the shape of denying Black farmers timely access to government loans which caused Black farmers to lose their farms.

The 2002 Farm Bill and the 2018 Farm Bill signaled progressive efforts to address this discrimination. While some progress has been made, e.g., an increase in the number of Black farmers and the acreage of Black farms, more is needed as the average farm income of Black-operated farms in 2017 was 40% of that of white-operated farms. To address this gap, the Justice for Black Farmers Act, co-sponsored by Senator Booker in late 2020, seeks to provide land grants to Black farmers.

On the recommendation of Member Pete Small, several committee members met for a tour of Free Haven Farm in early November 2020. They fell in love with the owners, the kale, and the fire sauce. Established in 2017, Free Haven Farms is a Black-owned farm in Lawnside, NJ. Its owners are Cynthia (Moorestown Friends School, 1997) and Micaiah Hall. The Halls are passionate about their mission of sustainability and attainability. To that end, Free Haven Farm produces much more than produce – farm tours, ag workshops, soil testing, garden consultation, a science camp for kids, and yoga and capoeira angola (Brazilian martial art) classes. Mr. Hall is the former Farm Director of Mill Creek Farm in Philadelphia. Dr. Cynthia Hall is an environmental geochemist and Associate Professor at West Chester University. Their farm reflects their interest in building bridges into the community through healthy food and food education for those with limited access to both.  The committee will be sponsoring a program with Cynthia and Micaiah Hall on February 25. 

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