Advancing Diversity and Inclusion by Supporting People of Color in Agriculture
Supporting people of color in agriculture is part of Farm Credit’s mission. In 2020, the system challenged itself to fulfill that mission by becoming the first agricultural organization to participate in the HBCU Partnership Challenge.
Created in 2017 by Rep. Alma Adams and the bipartisan Congressional HBCU Caucus, the challenge seeks to strengthen public-private investment in historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), creating more career opportunities for HBCU graduates, and advancing diversity and inclusion across all sectors of U.S. employment.
In March, representatives from CoBank and other Farm Credit institutions joined Rep. Adams and leaders from education and industry to meet with members of Congress, advocating for greater investment in our nation’s HBCUs. In October, they followed that effort with the first Farm Credit HBCU career and internship fair, and the announcement of the Launching Leaders program. Launching Leaders is a new initiative that encourages HBCU students and recent graduates to seek internships and employment within the Farm Credit System. The program offers a $3,500 stipend to HBCU students and alumni who intern with Farm Credit.
“When I graduate, I will be the first engineer in my family in five generations. I believe that the greatest thing we can do for agriculture and for farmers is to produce tools and processes that are formed for the future.”
“HBCUs offer a wealth of talent, but many students simply aren’t familiar with the Farm Credit System and the opportunities it presents,” said Faye Tate, vice president of Diversity & Inclusion at CoBank. “CoBank’s recruiting team has been actively looking for opportunities to connect with HBCU students and the new initiatives launched by Farm Credit will be a big part of those efforts.”
Building on the work of Farm Credit, CoBank recently announced a partnership with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF), a non-profit organization representing nearly 300,000 students attending 47 member-schools including historically Black colleges and universities, medical schools, and law schools. A $140,000 contribution established the CoBank Agriculture Scholarship, which is open to juniors and seniors studying agriculture-related majors at any TMCF member school. TMCF awarded the first scholarships in December.
Amiya Nesbit, one of the recipients, attends Alabama A&M University. ”The CoBank scholarship will help me finish my undergraduate degree in food science,” said Nesbitt. “I want to work as a product developer, creating new food products that are both healthy and delicious. Preventable diseases like obesity, high blood pressure and heart disease plague Black communities, and many of these can be linked back to the food we eat. Making healthy food more available to low-income, urban communities will go a long way toward reducing the impact of these diseases and I want to be part of that.”
Kristyn Mobley, who studies agricultural business at Florida A&M University, is also focused on the industry’s role in creating healthy communities. “I want to help people who look like me to understand that they have a place in the field of agriculture and how essential it is to our future,” said Mobley. “There is a direct correlation between agriculture and healthy eating. In my future career, I want to help underserved communities to create and maintain healthy ways of living and I’m grateful to CoBank for supporting me as I work toward these goals.”
Laurence Price-Webb is studying mechanical engineering, with a focus on agriculture, at North Carolina A&T State University. Price-Webb, who has interned at John Deere, hopes to join the company’s large agriculture business unit and become part of the team that improves agricultural manufacturing processes.
“When I graduate, I will be the first engineer in my family in five generations. I believe that the greatest thing we can do for agriculture and for farmers is to produce tools and processes that are formed for the future. I want to see agricultural tools built out of re-usable or renewable materials that reduce waste and lower the impact on our environment, while helping keep our crops and our farmers safe. The CoBank scholarship will be a great help to me as I continue to pursue my education.”
Additional scholarships will be awarded in the spring of 2021.