Social Equity

When Food


Social impact

For more than 40 years, Oregon Tilth’s mission has been to “support and promote biologically sound and socially equitable agriculture.”

In early 2016, Oregon Tilth formed a Social Equity Committee. The group looked to build on program achievements and undertake the process of organizing and reorganizing decades of information and ideas. It’s been a messy and clumsy job. But our determination to continue only deepened. We’re focused on improving the extent to which equity is an everyday part of Tilth life. We’re examining our culture, services, and programs to develop closer ties to our mission’s intent to serve all communities.

There will be questions. We will confront our prejudices and presumptions; we’ll need to be reminded to be good listeners. There will be relationship-building and engagement; there will be discomfort and emotions. And throughout our pursuit, we will strive to implant equity into the blood, bones, and spirit of Oregon Tilth.

The Food Project
Oregon Tilth 2017 SIP awardee, The Food Project, growing space and market in Boston, Mass. Photo by Jessie Hancock-Malo

Social Investment Project

Oregon Tilth’s Social Investment Project (SIP) partners with organizations, groups, and communities that are committed equity in agriculture. We provide capacity building and program support funds to groups that focus engagement on:

  • The historically underserved in the agricultural community (e.g., for reasons of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, education, class status, military affiliation)
  • Farm labor/worker communities (e.g., safety, human rights, and public health for farm workers)
  • Those without access to farm ownership opportunities (e.g., disadvantaged beginning farmer groups including, but not limited to, minorities, immigrants, and women)
  • Other topic areas or communities involved with improving socially equitable agriculture

2017-2018 SIP participants

The Food Project |
Each year, The Food Project works with 120 teenagers and thousands of volunteers to farm on 70 acres in eastern Massachusetts in the towns and cities of Beverly, Wenham, Lynn, Boston, and Lincoln.The organization focuses on identifying and transforming a new generation of leaders by placing teens in increasingly responsible roles, with deeply meaningful work. Food from their farms is distributed through community supported agriculture programs and farmers’ markets, and donated to local hunger relief organizations. The young people working in its programs participate in all of these distribution streams, giving them valuable job experiences and a personal connection to our food system and issues of food justice.

Multinational Exchange For Sustainable Agriculture |
Multinational Exchange for Sustainable Agriculture (MESA) connects sustainable farming leaders around the world for participatory training and cross-cultural exchange to strengthen local, resilient food systems worldwide. Since 1997, MESA has connected over 1500 farmers, activists, and advocates and helped start nearly 250 small-scale farms and food justice projects worldwide.

Training programs focus on ecological production practices, processing, direct marketing, community organizing and education, and organic crop research and breeding.

Agricultural Justice Project |
The Agricultural Justice Project works for empowerment, justice, and fairness for all who labor from farm to retail. Central to its mission are the principles that all humans deserve respect, the freedom to live with dignity and nurture community and share responsibility for preserving the earth’s resources for future generations.

The organization provides farms and food businesses with technical tools to improve work and trade practices from farm to retail, including extensive toolkits and templates, one-on-one technical assistance, and a stakeholder-driven certification program for high bar social justice standards for labor and trade practices in North America.

International Community Foundation |
The International Community Foundation is a nonprofit organization, which seeks to inspire international charitable giving by U.S. donors, with a focus on Northwest Mexico, to strengthen civil society and promote sustainable communities.

The organization is preparing to launch a new initiative to get fresh and locally-available food into the hands of the most food insecure communities. The food rescue program salvages a considerable percentage of locally-produced food, often certified organic, that is left to rot or disposed of because it fails to meet export standards. This program seeks to stimulate connections between local food producers and consumers through the establishment of community food rescue and distribution teams to establish a network in southern Baja California Sur, Mexico.