How Sandhills Cooperation Association is Helping to Preserve the Legacy of Black Farmers
Ellerbe, NC, June 13, 2022
SCA's Core Team Member Fati Brown, project manager for the Mushroom Grow Room located in Ellerbe, NC
In the United States, farmers of color have always been at a disadvantage. From slavery to the Jim Crow era to today, systematic racism has robbed farmers of color of their land, resources, and livelihood. Despite this history, black farmers are fighting for justice and a seat at the table. Whether it's through grassroots activism or legal recourse, these farmers are determined to preserve their legacy and ensure that all Americans have access to healthy food.
Since the late 1800s, African Americans have been farming in the United States. In fact, some black farmers can trace their families' farming history back to before the Civil War. During the war, many blacks were forced off their land by white landowners. After the war ended, some blacks were able to buy back their land, but many others became sharecroppers, renting land from white landowners and giving them a portion of their crops in return.
Black farmers have faced a number of challenges over the years. One of the biggest has been access to credit. Because they often don't have the same amount of collateral as white farmers, they've been turned down for loans more often. This has made it difficult for them to expand their operations or buy new equipment.
In recent years, the number of black farmers has been declining. In 2012, there were just over 35,000 black farms in the United States, down from a peak of more than 50,000 in the early 1980s. Some experts believe this trend is likely to continue as more black farmers retire without children interested in taking over the family farm.
One organization that is helping black farmers keep the legacy alive is Sandhills Cooperation Association. Founded in 2015, Sandhills Cooperation Association is a North Carolina-based non-profit that works to increase prosperity and self-reliance in marginalized communities through new business creation and community organizing. The organization has helped black farmers in a number of ways. One way is by providing them with access to capital. In 2017, the organization contributed $100,000 to projects in Moore and Richmond counties. The projects included the building of a Mushroom Grow Room in Ellerbe, NC and community gardens located in Aberdeen, NC and Jackson Hamlet, NC. The Mushroom Grow Room will provide an opportunity for black farmers to learn how to grow mushrooms and sell them to local restaurants. The community gardens will provide fresh produce for local residents while targeting young farmers of color to get involved in agriculture.
SCA Core Team Member Fati Brown gives a tour of the beginning construction work of the Mushroom Grow Room located in Ellerbe, NC.
Other ways that Sandhills Cooperation Association plan to help black farmers is by providing them with technical assistance and training. The organization will soon offer workshops on a variety of topics, including business planning, financial management, and marketing. They will also offer one-on-one technical assistance to help farmers resolve specific problems they're facing. In addition, future plans of the organization includes supporting farmer's markets for black farmers to sell their products. These markets are important not only for generating income but also for building relationships between farmers and consumers.
The work of Sandhills Cooperation Association is important not only for black farmers but for all Americans. By helping black farmers overcome some of the challenges they face, the organization is ensuring that our food supply is more diverse and that everyone has access to healthy food.
SCA's Roseland Urban Farm Garden located in Aberdeen, NC in partnership with Moore County's Habitat for Humanity