WASHINGTON (FinalCall.com)—Several years of work in negotiating with major food distribution chains in the Washington area to carry the produce of Black farmers has resulted in the first site visits. The development has moved the National Coalition of Minority Growers and Agribusinesses (NCMGA), primarily Maryland-based Black farmers, closer to its quest to put the food grown by Black farmers in grocery stores.
The group represents thousands of growers in an effort that has produced inspections and scheduled inspections of member farms and facilities by the likes of Safeway, Kroger, Giant, Wal-Mart and Marriott.
“This is an idea whose time has come,” Tim Webb, the organization’s spokesman, told The Final Call. “We want to get contracts with major chains and then work to develop more and more farmers to meet the demand.
“Some of the farmers are ready to produce and fill the needs of chains who currently get produce from South America because of cheap labor; others need help to meet exact specifications. Our program is developed to help both farmers, those ready for contracts and those in need of development.”
Kroger and Giant have agreed to come out for inspections with Marriott and Wal-Mart expected to be scheduled soon.
“Safeway has already sent an inspector and viewed three farms. What they saw is a great disparity between the skill level and production between Black and White farmers,” said Mr. Webb. “They’ve expressed the most interest in working with us.”
The group was formed four years ago out of the need to provide markets to Black and minority growers. Members have the capability and capacity to fulfill contracts locally, regionally and nationally.
The National Coalition of Minority Growers & Agribusinesses (NCMGA) is a marketing alliance of farmers, growers, co-ops and companies dedicated to gaining business/sales access to large companies in order to maximize production and marketing potential for its members.
NCMGA also provides its members with technical, legal and public relations support systems.
Through two companies, Tigis Farms and Onyx Farms, NCMGA has a database of thousands of growers/farmers, allowing its membership to compete and do business with the Fortune 1000 companies, and the potential to go international.
Tigris Farms has contracted U.S. farmers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Historical Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) system and the National Cooperative Extension. Onyx Farms has contracted farms from Mexico and Central and South America. This formidable network makes NCMGA a totally unique and potent player on the U.S. agricultural scene.
Additionally, NCMGA members were instrumental in the successful class action lawsuit brought against the USDA by Black farmers. NCMGA also led the fight to break down barriers for small and minority growers to do business with Fortune 1000 companies.
“The problem with this work is that some stores and chains just don’t have a commitment to use Black farmers’ produce. They tell us they do, on one hand, and then they raise questions about where the farms are, the quality of food and if the farmers can grow to specifications. Then we never hear back from them,” said Mr. Webb.
“Giant Food says they have a local growers program but they’re not using produce from Black farmers. Their outreach has not been significant and we’ve been working with them for over two years.”
The group urges the public to “let corporate officials know that they support the survival of Black, minority and small growers, and expect corporate America to buy from our communities to the extent that our communities spend billions of dollars with them.”
The farmers also have contacted the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) for assistance in selling to Cuba.
Last year, the NAACP went to Cuba on a goodwill mission. Alimport, the country’s food imports company, agreed to buy food from Black farmers.
John Johnson, director of programs for the NAACP, responded to NCMGA’s inquiry. “The accord represents a major breakthrough in the NAACP’s efforts to assist Black farmers win business in new and emerging markets. Currently, we are working on how the process will be facilitated,” he said.