Since 2018, Nelson Hawkins has operated We Grow Urban Farm, a small plot in West Sacramento where he cultivates a colorful array of produce destined for farmers markets and community supported agriculture boxes.
Now, the land that he tills, plows and harvests is set to be razed for a new housing development set for construction by the West Sacramento Housing Development Corporation. Because he leases the acreage, Hawkins may soon be without a physical farmstead and his livelihood.
Hawkins, who is Black, knows his dilemma is part of a bigger problem.
“Land access is the biggest barrier for new and existing farmers of color,” he said. “And I’m experiencing that right now with my farm.”
Hawkins is also part of at least one solution to this obstacle. As a co-founder of the Ujamaa Farmer Collective, a Black-led agriculture business cooperative, he’s leading the effort to purchase farmland that will permanently support anywhere from 10 to 20 farmers. In July, the Yolo County Board of Supervisors approved partial funding for the collective, which has brought the collective closer to its goal of assisting historically underserved farmers.