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Creating new business opportunities and fostering hope

“Green acres” haven’t exactly been “the place to be” for farmers of color, who make up only 4.6% of all farmers in the nation. This is due in part to systemic racism causing inequity in lending practices, access to markets and the availability of resources. The effects of the pandemic on issues such as inflation and supply chains have further challenged farmers with significantly rising costs. To support the continued growth and strength of farmers of color, Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA (RAFI-USA) recently awarded more than $100,000 to 12 recipients in its Farmers of Color Network for projects such as installing new refrigerators and building new barns. Now in its third year, and supported in part by WKKF, the program has assisted 90 farmers in nine states with more than $600,000.  

Frank Giustra, founder of WKKF grantee Acceso, wrote about his recent trip to Haiti for the launch of the Haiti Food System Alliance (HFSA) and how “the international aid system is in need of reform.” He described the HFSA’s aim of building “long-term food sovereignty and security from the bottom up,” and called for multilateral organizations to work toward local self-sufficiency and avoid importing food aid “when local production is available.”  

The first cohort of budding entrepreneurs in Battle Creek, Michigan, just completed 10-week courses run by WKKF grantee Northern Initiatives in a new incubator program. The initiative uses the Kauffman FastTrac curriculum and is designed to help entrepreneurs hone their ideas for greater odds of success. It’s just one component of a comprehensive entrepreneurial support ecosystem in the city, which also includes a $10 million Small Business Loan Fund run by Northern Initiatives.  

Taking photos of their hopes and dreams is shaping new visions of the future for young photojournalists in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The Pictures of Hope program is dedicated to changing the lives of homeless and underprivileged children in the United States through a photojournalism program that gives each student a camera and a mentor, using the gathering of images to heal and transform. One student who participated in Pictures of Hope in 2018 received a full tuition college scholarship, graduated and will be a mentor for the program. A curated exhibition will debut each child’s photos at the Albuquerque Museum in mid-June.  

Sixth grade students in Las Cruces, New Mexico, are giving back to the community while learning early career skills in partnership with CITY Center for Collaborative Learning’s Community Share program. As a result of their efforts, one child with special needs received a mobility car that was re-engineered by the students to address the child’s specific needs. Additionally, two students from the media program wrote about this project and it was published in the local newspaper. Hats off to the sixth graders at Lynn Community Middle School for helping others and pursuing their career dreams at this early stage in life.  

The New Jersey/New York Employee Ownership Center at Rutgers University, a WKKF grantee, launched a free online program to help retiring entrepreneurs, specifically entrepreneurs of color, learn about two proven succession strategies: Employee Stock Ownership Programs (ESOPs) and worker cooperatives. These two revolutionary yet practical approaches help retiring owners sell to their employees – putting cash into the owners’ hands and letting workers share profits as the business grows. In related news, Apis & Heritage (A&H) Capital Partners, a WKKF investee, announced the successful buyout of its first two portfolio companies, transitioning them to 100% employee-owned. A&H aims to close the racial wealth gap by transitioning businesses with large workforces of color into employee-owned enterprises. 

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