From Atlanta Black Star web site: Black-owned farms are few and far between, comprising just 1 percent of the industry. However, one family farm is working to become a leading produce supplier to some of America’s major food corporations.
In 2004, Robert Thompson, a former Fresh Del Monte Produce marketing executive, founded Thompson Family Farms, Black Enterprise reports. Thompson serves as the Washington-based company’s president and CEO, while the farm is run by his wife Clarissa, son Stewart, and daughters Arielle and Athena.
According to Black Enterprise, Thompson dug into the business after colleagues, who happen to be second-generation potato growers, convinced him that producing potatoes would be more profitable than growing lettuce, which was his original plan.
TFF’s primary clients also include agribusiness J.R. Simplot Co. and the Frito-Lay Company, located in Dallas.
But a farming business like Thompson’s would have been almost impossible back in the day, as the U.S. Department of Agriculture discriminated against African-American farmers by refusing to grant them farm loans. According to Black Star News, factors like “tax sales, inaccessibility to legal counsel, and legally exploitative land takings” also led to the sharp decline in African-American land ownership.
The news website also reports that today, African-Americans only own about 7 million acres of land.
“We are losing land and wealth that our parents, grandparents and great grandparents worked, fought and died to acquire for us,” said Gary Grant, National President of the Black Farmers and Agriculturalist Association. “We owe our ancestral warriors a debt. We must help ourselves by insuring that the next generation is ready to control the land.”
Grow Where You Are seeks to do just that. The Georgia-based farming collective has nine members who run a 3-acre farm and food forest in Atlanta as well as another 5-acre farm in Stone Mountain,Raw Story reports. Two-thirds of the group’s farmland is owned by churches, who provide members and food pantries with a portion of their produce. According to its website, Grow Where You Are has also “produced over 15,360 lbs of food, served over 8,260 people with healthy food options and facilitated over 144 service groups. ”
Other Black-owned farming collectives include the Black Dirt Farm in Preston, Maryland; the Alabama-based Tuskegee United Leadership and Innovation Program (TULIP); and the Hattie Carthan Herban Farm in Brooklyn.