I would hear him open our garage door in the wee hours of the morning.
As I looked out of the window, I would see him maneuver his mechanical tiller down our walkway to get the soil ready for cultivation.
This was one of the last steps in the process of creating our very own vegetable garden.
My dad had southern roots that dug deep into the earth.
Planting was an innate skill.
He planted seeds that produced tomato vines, collard greens, potatoes, squash, carrots, and other vegetables.
Being that he honed his culinary skills as a private in the Vietnam War, he harvested his crops and produced hearty meals with finesse.
Growing up, I felt privileged to have a garden in my own backyard.
I saw it as a showcase of my dad’s adept talent. His garden was small in scale in comparison to the image that comes to mind when thinking of farmland.
He did not have acres of land that most farmers farm on, but by definition, he was a farmer.
He used our land to produce crops.
Struggling to Farm for a Living
I never thought about the plight of black farmers in the United States until I learned of fourth generation farmer, John W. Boyd, Jr., who founded the National Black Famers Association in 1995.
His biography can be found here. For more than two decades Mr. Boyd has not only worn the hat of farmer, but that of activist as well.
He nearly lost his own farm, but it was salvaged in 1997 due to longstanding efforts against what he deems as governmental discrimination against black farmers. (More on his story here.)
Although his case has been settled, he faithfully travels to our country’s capitol to seek justice for the over 80,000 black farmers who have been unfairly excluded from government subsidies that are reported as being readily offered to non-black farmers.
The fight continues, but with dignity.
This is a man who is not only grand in stature, but in respect for himself, the legacy of his family and career, and for all of the farmers for whom he has displayed his oratory prowess.
Even though I have delightful memories associated with my father’s farming, this may not ring true for other blacks in our nation.
In fact, Mr. John Boyd was noted as stating that many may view farming as being directly correlated with slavery.
A misconception such as this derails the farming legacy of blacks. Mr. Boyd’s answer? Education.
By educating youth on all facets of farming, even beyond the fields, they may begin to associate more positive thoughts with this occupation and seek formal education that will spark the legacy of black farming in tribute to those farmers who have since passed away.
Can black farmers educate communities that have been declared food deserts?
I think that Boyd's proposed solution to shifting blacks’ perception of farming could potentially imbue socioeconomic and political implications that may help to enhance the conditions of the black community.
Additional information on this topic:
Related article: How Many Miles Do You Walk for a Tomato?
Vegetable Garden Photo: uconnladybug.wordpress.com
John Boyd Photo: nbfarally.com