September marks the beginning of autumn. I hope you all got to enjoy the summer.

We are committed to USDA’s goals of advancing racial equity, mitigating climate change, and strengthening American agriculture. We are contributing to these objectives in very real ways, not only through crop insurance policies that incentivize environmentally friendly practices, but also through our Risk Management Education program that provides funding to universities, nonprofits, and other institutions to deliver training to historically underserved producers.

As part of our ongoing monthly series of messages, I’m going to talk about some of these exciting projects and hear from educators and students about the training and its impact.

The Federal crop insurance program needs maximum participation to function well. Our Risk Management Education programs bring vital training to communities that have historically lacked access to education and resources. Michigan State University leads an RMA funded project to bring farm financial and risk management training to underserved producers throughout the Great Lakes State. I had the chance to interview MSU Outreach Specialist, Maria Graziani about their endeavor.

Richard: We recently rebooted our Risk Management Education program with renewed funding. We’re grateful for the chance this year to work with MSU and other organizations moving forward.
Maria: We are very excited that this project provides an opportunity for a group of community and academic partners to expand financial management and recordkeeping education and reach more of Michigan’s food producers through a more coordinated, statewide effort. The strategies we use will help us reach a more diverse pool of urban, peri-urban, and rural farmers, including farmers of color, women and non-English speaking producers.

Richard: Tell us more about MSU’s project
Maria: I was very excited to have Center for Regional Food Systems receive the USDA RMA funding. We have several organizational partners involved in this project and the work they do in Michigan to support equality, diversity and opportunities in agriculture is outstanding. Michigan Food and Farming Systems (MIFFS), Keep Growing Detroit, Edible Flint, Flint Fresh, Michigan Farmers Market Association (MIFMA), and the MSU Detroit Partnership for Food, Learning and Innovation, will all be working with us to provide these resources to producers in their regions, build a virtual/in-person hybrid six-month educational series that is sensitive to the needs of producers of color, ESL speakers, small-scale/urban producers and new farmers that are not generational growers and not yet highly versed in federal, state and local resources to run the best agricultural business they possibly can. We plan, together, to make change in Michigan that increase inclusivity and equity for all Michigan producers.

Maria Graziani

MSU Outreach Specialist, Maria Graziani

Richard: We feel it is critical to our mission and the strength of the farm safety net to provide risk management information and training to underserved communities.
Maria: Risk for farmers is greater for those who do not have access to quality training materials, experienced instructors, and a community of fellow farmers to learn with and share information. This project provides these tools and resources in a supportive environment and will leave farmer participants with tools to continue learning and building their support networks.

Richard: What impact will this project have for producers in your area?
Maria: Producers in the project will gain important skills in risk management (importance of crop diversification, farm insurance, good agriculture (production) practices (GAP), bookkeeping and cash flow management, marketing, and development of and use of a farm business plan and a lending/financial plan. These plans will be combined with how to best utilize USDA programs to provide a positive benefit to their operations, through a supportive community network that accounts for the needs of farmers of color. These skills will lead to stronger farming businesses and growth for farmers of color in Michigan.

I want to thank Maria for talking with me about MSU’s exciting project! Read more about our Risk Management Education activities and this year’s program reboot.

– Richard