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Supporting black farmers in organic rice production
New York Ag Connection - 03/07/2024

A significant decline in Black farmers in the US has prompted initiatives like Jubilee Justice to address the issue. Founded in 2020, the organization supports Black farmers in growing organic, regenerative rice, a crop historically linked to their heritage.

Jubilee Justice focuses on small-scale production using sustainable methods like the System of Rice Intensification (SRI). This approach emphasizes less water, fewer seeds, and reduced agrochemicals, aiming for improved soil health and lower emissions. However, adapting SRI to the southeastern US climate presented challenges like weed pressure, heat, and unpredictable rainfall.

To overcome these hurdles, Jubilee Justice established a research farm in Louisiana for experimentation with rice varieties, cover crops, and organic weed management. Additionally, they collaborate with farmers across several states, testing and refining techniques on individual farms, treating each as a unique experiment.

Through this collaborative effort, four organic rice production strategies have been developed, considering factors like soil health and equipment availability. These strategies may involve biodegradable weed control solutions or gradual transitions to no-till systems with permanent mulch. Cover crops and adapted irrigation methods are also part of the approach.

With research ongoing, Jubilee Justice is now transitioning towards larger-scale production in 2024. They are also facilitating the formation of farmer clusters for mutual support and establishing a cooperative to process and market rice through the first Black-owned rice mill in the US.

Jubilee Justice's work extends beyond economic benefits for Black farmers. It also aims to reconnect them with their rice-growing heritage and contribute to a more sustainable future for agriculture, consumers, and the environment.

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