Does Inclusivity Really Matter? The Importance of Diversity and Inclusion in Farm-Based Internship Programs
Current farming demographics in the United States indicate an aging and overwhelmingly white group of farmers, stimulating the need for engaging a younger and more diverse population. There is an opportunity to engage these populations through farm-based internship and apprenticeship programs, which are immersive programs on small-scale, sustainable farms. These programs are unique in providing hands-on training, housing, meals, and a stipend in return for labor, presenting a pathway to social empowerment. The potential outcomes of increasing diversity and inclusion in farm programs are absent from the research on the benefits of diversity and inclusion in other work environments, such as the corporate setting. This paper presents the results of a study aimed at determining levels of diversity and inclusion in United States farm-based internship programs, and the viability of these programs as an effective opportunity to engage marginalized young people in farming. The study of 13 farm owners and managers across the U.S. found that the participants are focused on fostering education and training, environmental benefits, and a sense of community in their respective programs. All participants either want to establish, or believe they currently have, an inclusive workplace on their farm, but also indicated a barrier to inclusivity in the lack of a diverse applicant pool. Future recommendations for removing that barrier and involving more young, diverse interns include increased outreach and access to these programs, the use of inclusive language, and further research.