Dr. Gail Myers

FEATURED ACTIVIST: Dr. Gail Myers

As the co-founder of Farms to Grow, Inc., an Air Force veteran, a filmmaker, a cultural anthropologist, and NAFSN’s leadership circle chair, Dr. Gail Myers has been at the forefront of advocating and leading agricultural justice for underserved farmers. Dr. Myers received her doctorate in anthropology from The Ohio State University. Beginning with her time in Ohio, she has worked to address the lack of narrative on Black farmers.

In 2001, while in her doctoral program, Dr. Myers organized Ohio’s very first statewide conference for African American farmers, called “Sustaining Communities: Ohio’s Black Farmers at the Crossroads.” This conference raised the issue of the declining trend of Black farmers and provided an opportunity for farmers to network and brainstorm solutions.

Upon graduating in 2004, Dr. Myers continued her transformative work by co-founding Farms to Grow, Inc., in Oakland, California. Farms to Grow is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with a mission of building the capacity of underserved farmers to sustain and establish viable farm operations.

Dr. Myers’ proactive leadership did not stop in there. She has continued to raise awareness in California. In 2005, she served as the conference coordinator for the 19th Small Farm Conference. In 2013, Farms to Grow started the Freedom Farmers’ Market in West Oakland, which runs annually from June to November to bringing foods from socially disadvantaged farmers in areas surrounding Oakland into the city.

Dr. Myers has continued to identify awareness and communication gaps in agricultural justice issues faced by Black and other socially disadvantaged farmers. This ongoing issue prompted her to create a documentary film, “Rhythms of the Land.” In this film, Dr. Myers shares her interviews with over 30 Black farmers, sharecroppers, gardeners, and a weaver during her 2012 tour through 10 southern states. Her mission was to increase the visibility of the harsh realities faced by underserved farmers.

Dr. Myers’ work has gained national attention and recognition. In 2015, The Root recognized Dr. Myers as one of "7 Urban Farmers You Should Know." In 2018, Dr. Myers received the Justie Award, also known as the Advocates for Social Justice in Sustainable Agriculture award, from the Ecological Farming Association. She continues to be recognized for her work. Most recently (as of March 2019), she was recognized in an elementary school in North Carolina for Black History Month.

For more information on Farms to Grow, Inc., see its listing in the Sustainable Food Systems Sourcebook.

 

This feature was compiled and written by Michelle Shin, Cornell University class of 2019, based on notes from an interview with Dr. Myers by Kai Thomas, Cornell Class of 2022. An edited version of that interview is forthcoming.