Newsletter Vol. 3 No. 4 – April 2023

Blue background with drawn images of two BIPOC farmers.

This month’s theme is Vermont agriculture and its relationship with the BIPOC community.

Vermont has been in a transitory period in regards to agriculture. The industry is attracting fewer workers and the need for agriculture workers itself has decreased due to advancements in technology. This impacts Vermonters because agricultural production is one of Vermont’s top exports, and a big draw for tourism as well. Agricultural production in Vermont has a complicated relationship with the BIPOC community, and many are restricted to accessing resources to sustain their livelihoods, whether it is labor exploitation for BIPOC workers or financial capital for BIPOC farm owners. 

Franklin County, for one, is extremely agriculture-centric. It is the 59th highest milk-producing county in the entire United States, at over $129 million in exports in 2017 according to the USDA. Despite Vermont being one of the highest dairy producers per capita, migrant workers from Central America and the Caribbean, particularly, have a troubling relationship with the dairy industry. Working conditions in dairy production are often inhumane. Per the organization Migrant Justice, 40% of dairy workers make less than the state minimum wage of $13.81/hr, forcing 15% of them to live in overcrowded homes with little access to sufficient heat. Another 40% of workers also report having no days off, and another 20% claim to be victims of wage theft at some point in their employment. A 2021 report by the VT Housing and Conservation Board reported that over half of farm workers living on-site are migrant workers. Much of this is due to the fact that 96% of dairy farms in Franklin County are family owned and operated, with families themselves not having the resources or labor to ensure they are in compliance with state regulations. This data could imply a trend of family farms hiring desperate new Vermonters only to exploit their labor for low, under-the-table pay. 

Migrant Justice / Justicia Migrante formed in 2009 in response to a preventable workplace death of a migrant worker in Fairfield. The organization focuses heavily on dairy production because it is the most profitable sector of agriculture in Vermont, and because it is estimated that nearly all undocumented farm workers in Vermont work in the dairy industry, as reported by the VT Housing and Conservation Board. 

Some large buyers of milk products have agreed to incorporate Migrant Justice’s code of conduct into their supply chain, ensuring that workers are paid fairly and work under decent conditions. However, with Franklin county having so much of their economy tied up in dairy, there is a lot of work left to ensure all migrant workers in Vermont, and workers in all sectors of agriculture, are treated fairly. 

We’ve touched on this in our January newsletter on home ownership, but it’s worth repeating: creating an easier path for workers to own the means to production would both aid in building generational wealth for all, as well as giving workers control over their pay and working conditions. This includes actions like incorporating policies to decrease property costs, subsidizing farm worker expenses, or blocking the mass purchase of land by large corporations. 

Farms owned by persons of color in Vermont make up less than 1% of all farms in the state:  19 out of roughly 7000 according to a 2019 article. While the dairy industry’s relationship with BIPOC workers  is often bleak, Vermont has fortunately taken steps to help build a brighter future for POC  in another area of agriculture. The State of Vermont Cannabis Control Board (CCB) launched a social equity program in 2021 in preparation for the eventual legalization of recreational sales, which went into effect in October of last year. It is no secret that the BIPOC community, notably Black and Latinx people, were disproportionately targeted and punished for the sale and use of Marijuana over white Americans throughout the 20th century. The VT CCB aims to help heal those wounds by giving assistance to marginalized groups in the form of reduced application fees for sellers and cultivators, and low-interest loans to new businesses at least 51% owned by them. The CCB estimates that annual retail cannabis sales could reach $225 million by 2025 – that is more than all other agriculture exports combined less than a decade prior. Whether Vermont makes this program known and accessible to the target audience has yet to be determined, but doing so would be a grand step in the right direction to healing historical injustices inflicted on agricultural workers of these groups. 

Government policies created  in an effort to aid the BIPOC community have a history of not being made easy to take advantage of, and often not addressing the root of whatever problem they are facing. The Cannabis Control Board offers not only a direct form of social equity for the cannabis industry, but also an indication that social equity is possible in other industries as well. It is important to remember that a healthier and happier workforce benefits everyone, workers and owners alike.

For those interested in other agriculture-centric opportunities, there are a number of organizations offering similar grants and services. Conscious Homestead offers an annual fellowship program, the Flying Fish Fellowship, which provides grants and cost reimbursements to BIPOC gardeners, farmers, and foragers  who are looking to hone their craft. The Vermont ReLeaf Collective is also a valuable resource for connecting BIPOC Vermonters interested in racial equity within land ownership, environmentalism, agriculture, and food ways. Lastly, the VT PoC BIPOC Business Directory maintains a list of BIPOC-owned farms for those interested in patronizing them. 

About the author

A member of VT PoC, Dylan Rhymaun moved to Chittenden county in 2017 and now resides in Winooski. He’s a writer and artist who professionally works in Investments for education and disability savings. Dylan has also worked with the VT PoC Network briefly via the VT Health Equity Initiative and looks forward to continuing to support the organization. View more of their work at

About the Author

Dylan Rhymaun moved to Chittenden county in 2017 and now resides in Winooski. He’s a writer and artist who professionally works in Investments for education and disability savings. Dylan has also worked with the VT PoC Network briefly via the VT Health Equity Initiative and looks forward to continuing to support the organization. View more of their work at

Resources & Updates

VT PoC Monthly Financial Literacy Series (Virtual, April 6)
This month’s workshop is on Credit and Debit Management with Barbara Geries. Bring your questions and concerns for her this Thursdsay, April 6 from 6:00pm to 7:30pm! Click here to register.

Soul Food Sundays (In-Person, April 9)
Every second Sunday of the month, join The Roots Social Justice Center for a soul food potluck in a BIPOC affinity space! Bring a dish to share; all ages welcome. Click here for more info.

Comedy for Peace

The Argosy Foundation is hosting Comedy for Peace on Wednesday, April 12, 2023, at All Souls Interfaith Gathering at Meach Cove Farms in Shelburne, VT. All ticket proceeds are being donated to Vermont-area nonprofits. This event features four (4) comedians sharing humor via an interfaith lens. Shows feature Muslim, Jewish, and Christian stand-up comedians taking on topical issues, laughing at themselves and each other along the way. Performance is followed by a Q & A with the comedians. Tickets available at Eventbrite for $10

Juniper Creative Experience (April 15, 2023)
Juniper Creative Arts is hosting a pop-up market and art experience with art, music and food in Montpelier this month! This event is family friendly and will feature wearable art by Will Kasso Condry and Alexa Herrera Condry, herbal teas by Jennifer Herrera Condry, music by DJ King Crouch, and food by Taino Kitchen. April 15 from 2-5pm at the Center for Arts and Learning, 46 Barre Street, Montpelier VT.


Ramadan Mubarak!

This month, we’re wish those who celebrate Ramadan a blessed holiday!

Free tax preparation services

Did you know that there are free tax preparation services available across the state? Click here for eligibility; note that total family income cannot be more than $60,000 annually. To find your local tax assistance organization, click here.

$14 million to be invested by State of Vermont on agriculture industry

The Vermont Agency of Agriculture Food & Markets will be releasing $10 mil in grant funding towards the agricultural sector, and $4 mil in the working lands projects. To learn more about available funding via the Agency of Ag, click here! 

Community Recovery and Revitalization Program Round 1 Recipients Announced
About $10 mil of the $40 mil allocated by the state towards strengthening communities after COVID-19 has been awarded. There is still funding left; businesses and organizations are encouraged to check eligibility and to apply. If you are considering this grant opportunity and would like assistance, please reach out to

802 Opportunity Grant – Free Tuition at CCV

Vermont Student Assistance Corp. announced the 802 Opportunity Grant: free tuition at the Community College of Vermont for Vermonters with a family income of $75,000 or less. Click to learn more.

Share this post: