The African-American Farmers of California and other Black farming organizations around the country are launching programs designed to get Blacks interested in agriculture despite the hurdles of historical stigma and urban locations.
"A lot of Black people, their grandparents were farmers, but they were forced out of agriculture. We're trying to help them easily re-enter into it," said Will Scott, African-American Farmers of California president, according to the Associated Press. "The goal is that they eventually become self-sufficient."
Today, Blacks make up only about one percent of the nation's farmers and ranchers. In 1920, the number was closer 14 percent. Advocates say the steep decline can be attributed to Blacks' desire to move away from the poverty and discrimination that once defined Black life in the South.
"Black farmers were the backbone of American agriculture," John Boyd, president of the National Black Farmers Association told the Associated Press. "We went from being slaves to sharecroppers. Black farmers left farming because they didn't see the financial rewards. Instead, they saw pictures of the old South where there were racial tensions and they didn't want that for their families."
Although it may be a new era in agriculture, Black farmers find that there is still racial discrimination lurking in the field. The government recently settled a class-action lawsuit with a group of Black farmers over discrimination in government loans. The farmers are currently awaiting final approval for a $1.25 billion settlement agreed upon by Congress.
However, the interest in farming among Blacks is once again gaining momentum. In addition to educating African-Americans about job opportunities available in agriculture, organizations are also using agricultural knowledge as a way to help reverse the health issues that plague the Black community.
The food justice committee of Malcolm X Grassroots Movement is working to educate African-Americans about agriculture by acquiring plots of land that will be used for community farming and educating people about how to store and prepare their fresh produce.
“Our goal is to educate Black people about the history we have connected to the land and also the impact of the industrialization of Black food and Black food culture and how that is having a devastating effect on our health as a community,” food justice advocate and member of Malcolm X Grassroots Movement Beatriz Beckford told BET.com. “We need to be asking why it's easier to get chips and sugary juices in our communities than it is an apple, and then move to doing something about it.”
(Photo: AP Photo/GosiaWozniacka)