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Essay: Using Nature as a Blueprint

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Farmers from Fresh Start Farms, a project of ORIS (Organization for Refugee and Immigrant Success), host a tour of their Concord fields for NOFA-NH Board & Staff. (Photo courtesy of NOFA-NH)

Biology shows us that the health of an ecosystem can be measured by its variety of life, or biodiversity. Although modern humans have long sought to exclude themselves from the complex interdependent relationships that comprise the ecosystems we call home, we remain a vital and important piece of this puzzle. In the same way that ecosystems thrive and survive on diversity, our society, and the agricultural systems that keep us fed, flourish when many voices from many backgrounds are given the figurative and literal space to grow.

As we face the very real effects of climate change in our region, the collective agricultural knowledge shared across varying cultures and identities is crucial to ensuring that we can feed our people, protect our ecosystems and nourish our minds for generations to come. This variety in backgrounds, wisdom and knowledge bases reduces our vulnerability to the very real and tangible threats that climate change presents us with — challenges many farmers in the Granite State are experiencing right now.

The Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Hampshire (NOFA-NH) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to building a community of organic food activists and educated consumers to help support New Hampshire’s organic farming community. We have taken actionable steps towards becoming an antiracist organization and centering diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in all our work. We see this as an essential step in working towards a just and holistically sustainable New Hampshire food system that serves us all. In 2020, we published the first iteration of our DEI statement:

“NOFA-NH is committed to creating an inclusive culture where all forms of diversity are seen and valued within our organization and the greater organic agriculture community. As farmers, gardeners and eaters, NOFA-NH recognizes that modern American agriculture was founded on structural racism and inequality, and that there is much work to be done to address generations of injustice experienced by Black, Indigenous and People of Color, LGBTQ+ individuals, disabled individuals, incarcerated individuals, economically disadvantaged individuals, women, veterans and any other marginalized groups.

With a mission of helping people build sustainable, healthy food systems for healthy communities, NOFA-NH is committed to advocating for farmers and farmworkers, food justice, environmental justice and racial justice as part of building a truly sustainable agricultural sector in New Hampshire and beyond.”

We know that the diverse and lively voices of New Hampshire’s agricultural community have so much to offer, to share with us, to create with us, to savor with us. It is vital to the health of our agricultural systems to empower these many voices. We have worked to actively seek diverse leadership within our organization and diverse educators to present at our many programs, including our Winter Conference, Organic Gardening Series, on-farm workshops and so much more. Their knowledge, skills and time have been invaluable to our collective education, touching on topics such as the importance of seed saving, creating a sustainable food economy, raising backyard chickens, food sovereignty, community organizing and equity in our food systems.

With this commitment, we acknowledge that this work is far from over. Black and brown farmers are still outnumbered over 36 to 1 in New Hampshire1, despite people of color comprising over 8% of the state’s population. Language, lack of generational wealth and land access are all barriers we seek to dismantle in order to work towards an equitable and just New Hampshire farm and food system. We are fortunate to collaborate with so many fantastic organizations committed to this important work, including the Organization for Refugee and Immigrant Success (ORIS), the New Hampshire Food Alliance, the Kearsarge Food Hub, the Indigenous New Hampshire Collaborative Collective and many others. There is power in our collective organizing and energy working towards the common goal of diversity, equity, inclusion and environmental justice in New Hampshire’s agricultural systems.

The faces that make up these agricultural systems are undeniably varied. Our differences, however, do not divide us, but rather reinforce our robust community, skills and understanding of the natural world around us. We need each other, now more than ever, to face what lies ahead. Just as biodiversity strengthens our ecosystems, the many cultures and identities of New Hampshire’s vibrant farmers, gardeners, eaters and advocates strengthen our community resilience and demonstrate that the future of sustainable agriculture in the Granite State is not only bright, but beautifully diverse.


603 D Feb23 C1This article is featured in the spring 2023 issue of 603 Diversity.

603 Diversity’s mission is to educate readers of all backgrounds about the exciting accomplishments and cultural contributions of the state’s diverse communities, as well as the challenges faced and support needed by those communities to continue to grow and thrive in the Granite State.

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