My pre-highschool summers were spent in the southeastern part of Kentucky. While some of my peers got to sleep the morning away, I was awaken just after daylight touched the Kentucky bluegrass to the sound of my grandparents preparing for our task-filled day. I was helping tend the cattle, while peers watched various tv shows. Their rendition of outdoor fun was hanging in the neighborhood, and mine was helping my grandfather plant/monitor/harvest tobacco and a plethora of vegetables (and sometimes help haul water to others in the community).
I liked spending my summers on the family farm, but it wasn’t until I got older that I truly appreciated them. That I realized that those summers are when my grandfather provided me, my sister, and my cousins his version of Farming 101. He taught us his skills while at the same time shielded us from the harsh realities and disheartening history of being a Black farmer in the United States (better yet in the South).
Some atrocities a Black farmer endured include them
- Being falsely accused of a crime which led to their land being stolen or then dead.
- Being charged higher rates for loans or inflated land costs which were means to their farm maintenance or start.
- Being excluded from agricultural programs due to certain USDA or state mandated policies, and
- Never getting the “40 acres and a mule” promised fulfilled.
Being a granddaughter of a Black farmer is why I buy local (especially from farmers of color). It is why I try to utilize some of my grandfather’s traditions in my own gardening. Why I have slowly become involved with organizations/events focused on maintaining a seat at the farming/urban gardening table and getting back farmland stolen from our Black ancestors. Finally, it is why I’m so grateful that my grandparents entrusted their descendants to ensure the land remains in the family.
NOTE: I have a graphic with suggested resources on this topic’s Instagram post.