Smithfield Foods Announces First Participants in Support Program for Minority Farmers | Local


Smithfield Foods announced that the Martin family is the first family farmer to participate in its new contract growers program to support minority farmers on Thursday, November 18.

The new Unity and Action program has been developed to help overcome historic obstacles disproportionately faced by minority farmers and to diversify its pork supply chain.

Topics such as access to capital and the cost of capital were described in a short documentary from the perspective of the Martin family, highlighting the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace. American agriculture.

The Martins are contract hog producers for Smithfield Foods, based in Wayne County.

The program is part of a $ 15 million commitment to unity and action that Smithfield made to advance diversity, equity and inclusion in food manufacturing, agriculture and education.

“Our position as America’s premier food company and pork producer comes with tremendous responsibility to our many stakeholders, including our employees and our communities,” said Shane Smith, President and CEO. the management of Smithfield Foods. “We recognize our responsibility to promote diversity, equity and inclusion in our industry through determined actions to pave the way for a stronger and more inclusive agricultural future for our communities. “

The Martins, who own J&J Martin Farm Produce, are descendants of Harry Martin, a man from North Carolina who escaped slavery and enlisted in the Union Army during the Civil War as a member of the 135th United States Colored Troops (USCT). He returned to Wayne County and bought land in 1883 which he later gave to his children. His descendant, Larry Martin, has been running Martin Farms’ farming operations since 1986. In 2011, the family lost the ability to raise pigs after a weather event destroyed their barn.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), minority farmers make up only 5% of American farmers and less than 2% identify as black. Smithfield’s new contract farmers initiative to promote equity in agriculture has allowed the Martin family to return to their pig-farming heritage and will allow other minority farmers to enter or re-enter the industry.

“As the events of 2020 launched important conversations about race, justice and inclusion in America, we began to reflect on the fact that many of our farms are run by minorities, but not by minorities. “said Steve Evans, director of community development. for Smithfield Foods.

“It sparked a broader conversation for Smithfield about what we could do as a leader in our industry to improve access to agriculture for black farmers and other minorities and help overcome the systemic barriers that hinder their inclusion. . “

Last June, Smithfield launched its comprehensive program and proactively engaged the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (NCDA & CS) to discuss how to promote access for minority farmers to the agricultural industry. The resulting core program has been built up gradually over the past year with input from many black farmers and other minorities and the NCDA & CS. The first phase of the program focuses the company’s efforts in North Carolina – which is home to Smithfield’s largest operational footprint and nearly a quarter of its U.S. employees – and will be expanded to include other communities where its employees are located. firm. By the end of 2021, the company expects to have signed at least three more minority farmers into the program.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DCI) is a stand-alone pillar of Smithfield’s industry-leading sustainability program. To watch the company’s new documentary and for more information on its Unity & Action commitments, visit smithfieldfoods.com/unityandaction.

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