$131k grant to help BIPOC farmers ‘address entrenched legacies of racial injustice’

A $131,606 grant to Worcester Polytechnic Institute aims to 'address entrenched legacies of racial injustice and trauma, while repairing BIPOC relationships with the land.’

The Northeast Farmers of Color Land Trust, one of WPI’s collaborators, has projects that include connecting donors to BIPOC farmers, an effort NEFOC refers to as ‘reparations.’

An ongoing research project at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) partners with organizations “to address entrenched legacies of racial injustice and trauma, while repairing BIPOC relationships with the land and restoring regional ecosystems.” 

“Many Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color (BIPOC) communities identify regenerative soil, water, and energy systems as the basis for intergenerational healing from slavery and colonization,” the description of WPI’s $131,606 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) reads.  

“In this lens, the exploitation of land is based on the exploitation of people, and the regeneration of land depends on the regeneration of people.”

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WPI is collaborating with the Northeast Farmers of Color Land Trust (NEFOC) and Black Farmer Fund (BFF) to research sustainability and food security, helping networks of BIPOC farmers and food systems with “access to regional land for food, water, and energy innovation and...the freedom to vision regeneration goals 25+ years into the future.”

NEFOC’s projects include connecting donors to BIPOC farmers to fund their resource needs, an effort NEFOC refers to as “reparations.” 

Another project describes a collaboration with the State University of New York (SUNY) College of Environmental Sciences and Forestry (ESF). 

“To ensure we’re working across barriers and moving land-based wealth from colonial hands to sovereign lands,” NEFOC’s website reads, “we are working with the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment at [SUNY ESF] to weave new land justice frameworks, build relationships with Indigenous nations, and collaborate to advance cross-cultural Biocultural Re-Story-ation in ecosystems and Indigenous land stewardship.” 

The SUNY ESF Center for Native Peoples and the Environment combines “traditional ecological knowledge and western scientific approaches.” 

The Center’s website says that “[t]raditional ecological knowledge (TEK) is increasingly valued by academics, agency scientists and policy makers as a potential source of ideas for emerging models of ecosystem management, conservation biology and ecological restoration.” 

“It has been recognized as complementary and equivalent to scientific knowledge,” the website continues. 

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WPI’s other partner organization, BFF, has a similar mission and funds “Black agricultural systems in the Northeast,” according to its annual report

Other NSF initiatives, as Campus Reform has reported, include LGBTQ+ Advocacy in STEM and the Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP) program, which is intended to “diversify the STEM workforce.” 

NSF grants that use terms relating to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) total nearly $100 million, according to an analysis by Mason Goad, a researcher with the National Association of Scholars (NAS). 

Fewer than 1,000 NSF grants used terms related to DEI in 2010,” Campus Reform reported, “but over ten years later, that number skyrocketed to 2,750.”

Campus Reform contacted all relevant parties listed for comment and will update this article accordingly.