Cynthia Hayes Memorial Scholarship accepting applications

A woman gathers her things in the rain behind a sign for the Homewood Historical Community Farm, in Pittsburgh.
The Black Urban Gardeners and Farmers of Pittsburgh Co-op founded the Homewood Historical Community Farm on a city-owned vacant lot, in the Homewood neighborhood of Pittsburgh. (Lucy Schaly photo)

Washington, DC — The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), in partnership with The Southeastern African American Farmers’ Organic Network (SAAFON), and Minorities in Agriculture Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS) announced that applications are now being accepted for the annual scholarship in memory of the late Cynthia Hayes, co-founder and former director of SAAFON. The scholarship welcomes Black and Indigenous MANRRS-registered students interested in sustainable agriculture and how it affects Black farmer communities and food justice in the United States to apply.

We look forward to offering this opportunity to three outstanding student leaders who embody Cynthia’s legacy through their passion for Black agrarianism and sustainable agriculture. Scholarship alumni have gone on to work at organizations like Practical Farmers of Iowa, Young Farmers, and the New Virginia Majority. We are excited to continue this tradition for the sixth year,” said Kelsey Watson, NSAC Grassroots Co-Director. 

This year, three students (one graduate and two undergraduate students) will receive $5,000 scholarship awards each towards the 2023-2024 academic year, along with opportunities to engage with sustainable agriculture advocates and practitioners. Applications are open until May 12, 2023. Find more information on how to apply here.

Scholarship eligibility requirements:

  • This scholarship is open to students who self-identify as Black and/or Indigenous

  • Students should have an interest in grassroots organizing, movement building, or agricultural policy and a commitment to promoting racial equity in our food and farm system

  • You must be a MANRRS member (either independent or university-affiliated) enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate program, seeking a degree

  • You must be a student in good standing (2.5 minimum GPA)

  • PhD students are not eligible to apply

Cynthia Hayes founded the first network for African American organic farmers in the U.S. and dedicated her life to serving these communities. Spending time on her grandmother’s farm in Kentucky as a young person, she learned about her family’s history of over 80 years of tobacco farming. This laid the foundation for the work she would spend her life doing. Cynthia would go on to work in non-profits in the Bay Area, using her talents to support grant writing efforts and working in group homes before relocating with her husband to Jamaica where she began working directly with farmers. In 2000 Cynthia moved to Savannah, GA where her work centered on land, environmental justice, and the plight of African American farmers.

In addition to SAAFON, Cynthia Hayes was a founding member of several other non-profit organizations and programs that worked to build power among Black growers. Her impact and leadership were honored with several prestigious awards including the 2013 James Beard Award and the 2013 Southern Foodways Alliance John Egerton Award. Cynthia was an inspirational force in the development of NSAC’s equity platform and initiatives that followed. Her legacy lives on in the work that continues, and we hope to honor her vision with this scholarship empowering younger generations to continue this work.


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