Part of the Food Policy Community Spotlight Series
Name: Potlikker Capital
What They Do: Potlikker Capital is a farm community-governed charitable integrated capital fund with a mission to holistically serve Black, Indigenous, and other farmers of color (BIPOC farmers). The term “Potlikker” itself carries historical weight, rooted in African American Southern cuisine, it’s a blended broth of nutritional ingredients that can help sustain resilience.
How They Do It: Potlikker Capital provides “reparative” financial, knowledge and social capital to clusters of BIPOC producers to support their implementation of climate friendly farming practices; access to higher-value markets; and development of cooperative ownership opportunities. The organization also runs an agribusiness/finance internship program to develop the next generation of BIPOC agribusiness professionals.
Mission: To build the economic, agricultural and climate resiliency of BIPOC agricultural communities by creating thriving generational wealth, improved quality of life and stronger policy voices.
Latest project/campaign: Potlikker’s latest project, The BIPOC National Empowerment Trust (BNET), a national equipment trust, is a multi-state, nonprofit initiative aimed at providing necessary agricultural, agroforestry, and fishing equipment to support BIPOC farmers, ranchers, and landowners across the United States.
The initiative was sparked by the idea of establishing a “tractor library” after discovering a similar concept used by John Deere in Africa. The Trust initially started in a few states and has now expanded to 12, collaborating with existing NGOs focusing on education and farmer engagement. BNET was officially launched at the Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Funders Conference in Washington, D.C., where it captured the interest of national funders. Structured around a national agrarian trust model, it collects and administers funds, with local trusts in each state holding the equipment.
The Trust enables farmers to share expensive equipment, thereby reducing their financial burden. Crucially, use of the equipment is tied to a commitment on the part of the farmer to climate-friendly practices and social justice, ensuring it’s used for sustainable farming. BNET’s structure is governed by a national board of representatives from various farm, ranching, and fishing communities across the US. The national board handles equipment procurement, fundraising, financial management, and data reporting, while member organizations maintain local equipment pools according to their individual policies and training protocols. Initially funded with $5 million in low-interest debt capital, the Trust’s farmer rental fees primarily cover administrative costs like repair, maintenance, and transportation, making the equipment accessible to participating farmers and farming organizations.
The initiative recognizes that transitioning to climate-friendly practices incurs costs, and expecting financially vulnerable and disenfranchised farmers, who make up approximately 4 percent of US-based farmers, to absorb these costs without targeted support reinforces disparities in the farming community. BNET’s goal is to to mitigate this inequality by providing necessary tools to BIPOC farming communities, thus enhancing their equal participation in the national effort to produce food by using climate-friendly practices in order to foster a more equitable and sustainable food system.
Major Funding: Grants, Program-Related Investments (PRIs), Recoverable Grants, Investment Notes
Annual Budget: Not disclosed
Interesting fact about how they are working to positively affect the food system: The goal of Potlikker Capital, in collaboration with its affiliated organization, Jubilee Justice, is to collaborate with more than 300 BIPOC farming enterprises throughout the United States in order to enhance the beneficial influence these businesses can exert in their respective local communities by establishing practices that prioritize the intrinsic connection among humanity, the environment, and interpersonal relationships.
Location: Ithaca, New York
Core Programs: Potlikker Capital accelerates change through its multi-layered impact programs including:
- Farmers: Potlikker Provides integrated capital to support operating needs for BIPOC farmers.
- Communities: Potlikker supports the creation of “communities of practice” of like-minded producers in a specific place to engage in cooperative efforts to sustain their business and communities.
- Systems: Potlikker reduces the barriers of oppression that are present in the current U.S. agricultural system by establishing partnerships with other mission aligned lenders and technical assistance providers to expand farmer access to financial and other resources; educates policy makers about BIPOC specific needs; and supports the development farmer driven collectives to build local capacity to advocate for change.
Number of staff: 9
Number of volunteers: 15
Areas served: Potlikker Capital is a national organization
Year Started: 2020
Founders: Konda Mason and Mark Watson