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Black Farmer Livelihood Strategies to Mediate Financial and Emotional Stress
September 12 @ 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm EDT
Dr. Andrew R. Smolski – Postdoctoral Research Scholar
Dr. Michael D. Schulman – William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor
North Carolina State University, Department of Agricultural and Human Sciences
A tradition of rural sociological research highlights the assets and networks that support farmer strategies to address financial and emotional distress. Using data from open-ended interviews with a small set of black farmers in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia, we investigate some of the factors that contribute to their sustainable livelihoods. We find from preliminary results that farmer informants rely on community-based farmer networks to navigate fiscal and mental health crises. These networks support farmers in understanding the challenges they confront as having structural and institutional causes, as well as providing solidarity bonds, access to training, and cooperative economic strategies. Thus, there is a role for collective action between farmers in developing alternative resources to maintain the farm and contest discriminatory practices. The data show that the benefits extend beyond the economic into the psychological as evidenced by narratives of reduced stress from joining together around issues pertinent to Black Farmers. This finding merits further exploration and consideration when developing programs to support farmers as they work to overcome contemporary financial and emotional challenges to sustaining the farm.
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