Black Farmers in America

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I decided to become a photographer four or five years ago after being out of school for 10 years. McGill inspires me to continue working in photography no matter what obstacles I reach. The two met by chance soon after Mr.

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Santiago had moved to Oakland to study photography. That led him to Farms to Grow, an organization of black farmers that piqued his interest when one of its founders, Gail Myers, took him on a tour of Mr. Santiago said. Black farmers were killed for their land. The McGill family has been farming for 90 years. After returning from Vietnam, Mr.

Black farmers in Georgia reclaiming agricultural roots

McGill and a partner owned and managed a acre farm, McGill Farms, from to They lost the property through foreclosure after being denied loans, Mr. Santiago said, and although Mr. McGill tried to enlist lawyers to regain the land or be compensated, he has been unsuccessful. He started with 90 acres that have been whittled down to five because of foreclosure. Just last year, Mr. Santiago said, Mr. The history of black farming in this country has been long and, at times, painful, starting with sharecropping, which began to dominate agriculture in the South after the Civil War.

Black families rented small parcels, or shares, to work themselves, and in return they would give a portion of their crop to the landowner. Some saved enough money to buy the land outright, but many more went into debt or were forced by poverty or the threat of violence to sign unfair contracts that offered little chance of improving their economic situation.

Still, by African-American farmers made up approximately 14 percent of all farmers in the United States, and they owned a combined 15 million acres of land, according to United States Department of Agriculture reports. For farmers like Mr. McGill, the struggle continues. Every day he rises early to feed his pigs while keeping track of items he could reuse to maintain his farm. Tires and plywood, for example, can be turned into fencing.

The U.S. Has More Female Farmers Than Ever

As he makes a humble living, foreclosure is a constant threat for farmers like Mr. Even though he received compensation from a lawsuit against the Department of Agriculture that alleged racial discrimination in lending, the amount he and other farmers received was not enough considering what had been lost over the years, he said. Then came the farm crisis of the s.

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It was later determined that white farmers in the area had received comparable loans. Similar complaints among other black farmers became the focus of a class-action lawsuit. Pigford v. Glickman found a history of bias resulting from decades of discriminatory practices by the USDA. They purchased a former plantation in Albany and re-energized their efforts to help black farmers. These are just some of the characteristics of black farms, which organizations such as the Environmental Working Group found to be the result of decades of discrimination rather than justification for lower levels of government assistance.

In when Sherrod served as the Georgia director of rural development , a video posted on the conservative website Breitbart showed her making racist statements.

Black farmers in Southeast reclaim agricultural roots

Government officials offered her a new job. Sherrod declined. Much of the recent growth in black farming can be attributed to outsiders such as Whitney Jaye. By the time she was a student at the University of Georgia, she was fully invested in the agricultural movement.

She began researching the history of black land loss — the number of black farmers peaked in and declined 98 percent by the late 20th century — as well as studying the grassroots agroecological agriculture movement in South America. A fellow SAAFON member is establishing a farm to provide housing and teach farming skills to women ages who age out of foster care. The organization is also promoting cooperatives as a business model, a tradition which dates back to the s in the black community.

And they are doing it in ways that support nonindustrial agriculture and different scales of farming tied to their communities and not the commodities markets. Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today.

Creating opportunities for black farmers

See offers. Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism. Department of Agriculture:. Talk of the Town Blog.