Reclaiming Heritage and Equity: Unveiling the Story of Black Farmers at DSU's Landmark Conference
Where do we find the Black Farmer in today's agricultural landscape? Did you know that just one percent of farmers in the United States is Black, a sharp decline from the one million Black farmers a century ago. This drop raises an urgent question: How did we lose 90% of Black-owned farmland in a century? The answer lies in a complex web of systemic racism, unfair government policies, and social and business practices that have historically marginalized Black farmers.
Let’s delve into a history often overshadowed by mainstream narratives. Black farming, once a cornerstone of American agriculture, now teeters on the brink of invisibility. Yet, it remains an invaluable contributor to our society, both historically and presently.
Consider the integral role of agriculture in our daily lives: it feeds and clothes us. My mother often speaks of her experiences working alongside her grandmother in the fields, harvesting cucumbers and tomatoes, and her stories resonate with a deep sense of connection and purpose. For her generation, farming was not just labor; it was a cultivation of morals, character, and a strong work ethic within the family fabric.
So, where did the disconnect happen? Did we, as a community, drift away from our agrarian roots, or are we witnessing the consequences of systemic injustices?
In Delaware, agriculture reigns as the primary industry, with the state leading the nation in lima bean production. Yet, out of seventy-nine known Black farmers, only twenty participate in USDA programs, managing a mere one thousand acres. This glaring disparity, amounting to just 0.8 percent representation, underscores a significant disconnect.
The First Black Farmer's Conference at Delaware State University, held on November 8th-9th, was a monumental step in addressing these disparities. It shone a light on the vital contributions of Black farmers to our communities and discussed the barriers they face. These challenges range from limited access to equitable resources to gaps in knowledge regarding risk management, operations, and administrative education.
The conference emphasized that justice and wealth are attainable for Black farmers through shared learning and community support. It underlined a fundamental truth: farming is an eternal industry, and while society may overlook Black farmers, the legacy of their predecessors fuels a relentless pursuit of economic freedom and equality.
Carter G. Woodson once said, "If a race has no history, if it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated." This should remind us not to repeat historical injustices. Instead, we must intentionally create equality in American agriculture, ensuring that the dignity and humanity of Black farmers are recognized, respected, and preserved.
It's clear that the journey of the Black farmer is not just a tale of struggle, but also one of resilience and unwavering spirit. It's a narrative that demands to be told, understood, and supported as an integral part of our nation’s agricultural identity.
About the Author
LaTaysha Harmon is a native of Wilmington, Delaware whose passion lies in making a lasting impact on her community. As the Founder of G.A.P. Youth Mentoring Initiative, Inc. LaTaysha aims to equip young individuals with the mental and emotional tools needed to become active and thriving members of our community.