Black Farmer Fund launches a Pilot Fund with Fair Food Network’s Fair Food Fund

New Fund centers community voice and power from design to investments providing a model for democratizing capital investments

Black Farmer Fund (BFF), an emerging community-governed investment fund, is excited to launch a pilot fund. Leveraging its deep connections at the community level, BFF will connect Black farmers and food business entrepreneurs in New York state to non-extractive capital. It received 50+ applications for funding for this pilot phase and aims to announce 8 investments in Black-led businesses this fall.

BFF brings an innovative community-governance model wherein a group of 12 Black farmers, business owners, and organizers, from across New York State is structuring the fund and leading its decision making. This group, known as the Pilot Community, collectively designed the investment guidelines centering economic justice, community wealth building and managing environmental/ecological impact. In addition, they will determine which projects will ultimately be funded with what type of financial products. As local food entrepreneurs themselves, this group knows the business sectors, models, and challenges entrepreneurs face, bringing deep lived experience in the communities in which they’re working to bring more non-extractive capital. Together, the Pilot Community is building skills of collective decision-making around the resources needed to meet the community’s needs.

BFF invited Fair Food Network’s Fair Food Fund to support the administration and execution of the deployment decisions made by the Pilot Community in this initial pilot. BFF anticipates expanding beyond this pilot phase in early 2022.

Fair Food Network’s Fair Food Fund aims to reimagine all forms of capital in communities — financial, social, intellectual, political — so that food entrepreneurs can be the engine of a more equitable future. As a national fund that works locally, Fair Food Fund builds solutions with communities in ways that catalyze not just entrepreneur success, but broader systems change.

BFF looks at the partnership with Fair Food Fund from a lens of three varying levels of impact that this access to non-extractive funding will have. On a transactional level, BFF is infusing businesses with flexible financing aligned with their needs — this is the basis for all financial relationships. At a community level, BFF is building relationships and trust with the businesses and its stakeholders and engaging them throughout the funding process. By centering community members in the decision making process and in the underwriting process, BFF can determine what the gaps are in terms of resources that need to be prioritized in the communities they are looking to serve. These relationships complement the transaction side, which ensures that the numbers are financially sustainable. At a systems level, BFF recognizes that the transactions and the community ultimately are a part of a larger system. The food system and financial systems both have issues that do not allow Black communities and transactions to be as helpful as they could be. BFF is looking at who needs to be held accountable at a political level in order to create changes in the system that can allow intermediaries with similar structures to invest in communities, and for BFF to function in a way that holistically looks at the food system and is economically sustainable.

BFF is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization and is actively raising donations for re-granting; to learn more about how you can donate, visit our website at blackfarmerfund.org/take-action