F.A.R.M.S: Protecting Small Farmers of Color in the South – Jillian Hishaw (POY 46)

Jillian Hishaw offers legal aid to America’s small farmers as they age. She’s also helping them feed families in need across the Southeastern US.

Jillian Hishaw offers legal aid to America’s small farmers as they age. She’s also helping them feed families in need across the Southeastern US.

About Jillian and F.A.R.M.S.

Jillian Hishaw grew up in a family with a rich farming heritage.

She’s the Founding Director of a nonprofit organization called F.A.R.M.S., which is short for Family Agriculture Resource Management Services. She and the other contributors at F.A.R.M.S. have set up a unique model for supporting small farms in the Southeastern United States.

They raise money to buy food grown by small farmers, usually produce, and then donate it to food assistance organizations like food banks or churches in the region. That way, small farmers get paid, and families in need get healthy, local food that they otherwise might not have.

Jillian got into this work when she learned about a problem that’s been quietly eroding America’s small farms for years. Our farmers are getting older, and they’re struggling not only to maintain their farming operations but to preserve them for their families.

Jillian Hishaw became an attorney and founded a nonprofit to help small farmers maintain their assets across generations. (Photo)

More and more farmers are now passing away, and the result has been a loss in the overall number of farms across the country, many of which have been bought and consolidated by fewer and fewer owners. There’s also less diversity in the food that’s being grown, and a decrease in land wealth being passed down among families, particularly among families of color.

Jillian’s response to land loss among small farmers and their families was to spend years becoming an attorney specializing in agricultural law, and to found F.A.R.M.S. Although she takes pride in helping farmers distribute their goods to nearby communities, her main focus is on offering legal assistance to farming families so they can better protect their assets.

She got the idea to found a nonprofit dedicated to the cause around this time but thought it would be a good idea to build expertise first. In 2012, after years of building her resúmé and making connections, she laid the groundwork for what eventually became F.A.R.M.S.

Now What?

Homework for You

I’ve followed Jillian and her efforts since 2015, and I’ve noticed she has a lot in common with the people she serves. She works incredibly hard at what she does because she loves it, but she could use our help—and so could our small farmers.

Go follow F.A.R.M.S. on social media, and remember to check out the farmers’ markets and CSAs where you live. Jillian told me that using those services to buy food would be a great way to support small farmers and their families. I’ve been slacking on doing that, so I’m going to make a point in the new year to support farming families near me. I hope you will, too.

Further Reading

What Do You Think?

I’d love to talk about your thoughts on this story or anything you’d like to share. Please email me below, leave a comment or message on Facebook, or tweet me @pluralofyou.

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