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UVA's Purchasing Program for Local BIPOC Farmers

Through the UVA BIPOC Farmer program, UVA Dine, the UVA Sustainable Food Collaborative, Africulture, Local Food Hub, and 4P Foods are working together to achieve the goals in the 2021-2030 Sustainable Food Action Plan of increasing purchasing from local BIPOC farmers and creating a more equitable food system. 

Goals of the program: 

  • Increase the number of BIPOC farmers participating in the UVA food system 

  • Increase the amount of dollars spent on goods from BIPOC growers 

  • Increase the volume and diversity of food available to UVA Dine from BIPOC farmers in the region 

  • Provide opportunities for ongoing food system education for program stakeholders & the UVA community 

  • Build a market for regionally appropriate and culturally diverse ingredients 

  • Create a program that can be replicable at other institutions 

How the Program Works: 

  • Crop planning: During the off season, 4P, Africulture, and Local Food Hub meet with farms to identify which crops farmers would like to grow.  

  • Pre-commitments: Local farmers need to have a market for their crops before they plant the seeds, and to do that, they need to have committed customers. Through this program, our chefs can flip the script on menu planning so that they can plan far enough ahead to give the farmers projections before they plant. Before the semester starts, 4P Foods communicates to the chefs at UVA Dine which crops will be available from their partner farms. The chefs fill out a template to indicate which products they are committing to purchasing throughout the semester and give priority to BIPOC growers.  

  • During the semester: Chefs receive the local product that they committed to on a twice weekly basis.  

  • Technical Assistance: Throughout the year, a group of stakeholders within the community works together to develop the process for this program. Africulture and Local Food Hub are two nonprofits working specifically with the BIPOC farmers in the community to help get them ready for selling to UVA Dine. This might include helping them with their food safety documentation, providing small grants to help cover some of their incidental expenses, and helping navigate the logistics of how their product will get from the farm to the plate. 


Due to centuries of structural racism and discrimination, access to land and capital for BIPOC farmers has been limited. As a result, there has been disproportionate access to resources and markets which is a persistent barrier to success for these farmers. Many of the BIPOC farmers in the country are not GAP certified or wholesale ready, and they lack access to the capital and resources to scale up so they can sell to institutions. 

Additionally, the average age of U.S. farmers continues to rise. Data from the 2017 ag census shows the average age of farmers 57.5 (average age of Black farmers is 60.8). Without a financially viable market for small farmers, new beginning farmers will not take over an aging farmer's business. This could result in land ownership changing hands or the loss of agricultural land to commercial development. The program's purpose is to provide a reliable market for historically underserved farmers that catalyzes access to additional resources (like land and capital). 

Through pre-committing to purchase local products from growers, we can help reduce the barriers to entry for these farmers by guaranteeing a market for their products which helps them scale their business. 


Source: 2017 Census Black Producers, 2017 Census Farm Producers, New York Times 


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