• Denine Rogers

Celebrating Black History Month

February is the celebrating the achievements of blacks - Black History Month. This year I am celebrating the unsung black heroes of gardening and farming. I had the chance to read an incredible book called "The Color of Foods: Stories of Race, Resilience and Farming" by Natasha Bowens. In this book Ms. Bowens discussed about the Mr. Gary Carter of the Black Farmers and Agriculture Association (BFAA) in Tillery, North Carolina. Mr. Carter explained the plight and discrimination of the black farmers that has happened all over the United States. After the Reconstruction era, the first "40 Acres and a Mule" policy promised freed slaves land to get started, but the policy was reserved and the promise was never fulfilled. Then the Roosevelt's New Deal in the '30s and '40s made a second attempt with the creation of the Resettlement Administration, and 113 rural settlement projects began to relocate struggling families into government-planned farming communities. Of those, there were 15 Black resettlement projects and Tillery was one of the largest .

Writer Lauren Rothman from the Munchies Vice online article states that "While farming in this country has historically been the domain of people of color—in 1920, for example, blacks made up 14 percent of all the farmers in the nation and worked 16 million acres of land—that tradition has eroded over recent decades as black farmers have struggled to hold onto their farms, often passed down through multiple generations. Today, black farmers make up less than two percent of the farming population in the country. This is the result, farmers and their advocates say, of active discrimination at every level—but particularly from the USDA, the governmental agency that is key to funding farmers and keeping them in business. The agency has been accused of longstanding bias against black farmers that has challenged the model of black farming in the U.S. and rubbed out traditions that have persisted since Emancipation."

"In Pigford v. Glickman U.S. Federal District Court Judge Paul L. Friedman approved the settlement agreement and consent decree in the case on April 14, 1999. it was The settlement recognized discrimination against 22,363 black farmers but the NBFA would later call the agreement incomplete because more than 70,000 were excluded. Nevertheless, the settlement was deemed to be the largest-ever civil rights class action settlement in American history. It was a historic class-action lawsuit brought against the USDA in 1999 alleging racial discrimination against black farmers in its allocation of farm loans and assistance between 1981 and 1996. Anticipated to affect around 2,000 black farmers, the 1999 ruling in favor of the claimants actually called for payouts to more than 13,000 individuals, with another 70,000 late filers receiving an additional $1.25 billion dollar settlement 10 years later, in 2009. Lawyers estimated the value of the settlement to be more than $2 billion. Some farmers would have their debts forgiven. Judge Friedman appointed a monitor to oversee the settlement. "

There is so much more work to be done and the average age of a black farmer is 55 years old. We need to show our love to black farmers by fighting for their rights and encourage the youth about going into the farming field. More importantly is to help black farmer associations such as Black Farmers and Agriculture Association (BFAA) and National Black Farmers Association.

For Black History Month, Oldways published my Shrimp Creole recipe on their blog recipe website. To access the recipe click here. Also on the Oldways blog I wrote the history of Creole cooking. Click here to read the blog post.

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Natasha Bowens (2015). The Color of Food: Stories of Race, Resilience and Farming. Canada: New Society Publishers.

Lauren Rothman | (2018, June 26). Black Farmers Are Being Forced Off Their Land by Longstanding Government Discrimination. Munchies Vice, DOI: https://munchies.vice.com/en_us/article/bj349a/black-farmers-are-being-forced-off-their-land-by-longstanding-government-discrimination.