A Partnership Between Target And Black-Owned Family Farms Brings Sustainable Cotton Products To Consumers
(This article originally appeared on Forbes on 2/2/23)
In honor of Black History Month, Target is featuring clothing items created by Black business-owners and designers, including items made with a significant percentage of cotton grown on Black-owned family farms.
Only 1.4% of U.S. farm owners are Black. That disproportionately small community represents families who managed to overcome historic racial barriers in order to participate in this important business sector.
Very few Black farmers were able to acquire land through the Homestead Act of 1862 because protections under the 14th Amendment didn’t begin until the end of that decade. Even after that change many other societal barriers remained. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has acknowledged its own history of discriminatory policies towards Black and Indigenous farmers and is seeking to actively serve those underserved populations. For instance, in the U.S.D.A..’s recent Partners for Climate-Smart Commodities grant program, eight of the funded projects specifically include participation by Black farmer organizations. They are also featuring stories celebrating Black farmers on one of their web pages.
The national retailer’s partnership with Black-owned farms is a part of a larger commitment to source $2 billion worth of products from Black-owned businesses by 2025. Like many environmentally and socially conscious corporations, Target has an enterprise-wide corporate responsibility strategy. Theirs is called “Target Forward.” This pilot program to buy cotton from Black farmers delivers on the Target Forward strategy by expanding diversity within Target’s supply chain. It also supports farmers who employ sustainable growing practices — something that aligns with Target’s environmental goals.
I interviewed two of the participating farmers who grow cotton in Alabama and Georgia. One named Willie Scott is a third-generation cotton, peanut and corn grower whose grandfather had started implementing soil conservation strategies like contour tilling in the 1940s.