By Celeste Baumgartner
WILBERFORCE, Ohio – Black Farming: “Beyond 40 Acres and a Mule” will be online Sept. 11-12, 2020. The conference will discuss the influential history of Black farmers in Ohio and will help to prepare the next generation of underrepresented farmers for the future. It is free and open to the public.
The conference title comes from a Special Order that General William T. Sherman issued in 1865, offering 40 acres to Black farmers (there was no promise of a mule). Andrew Johnson, President Abraham Lincoln’s successor, reversed that proclamation.
“There were Black pioneers in what was known as the West or Midwest before Ohio was even a state,” said Ariella Brown, in student affairs, Antioch College, and conference committee chair. “Black pioneers settled in Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin. We wanted to focus on the historical aspect of Black farming in Ohio to help people understand the contributions that Black farmers have made to this region for many years.
“We want people to understand the history, but also to understand where we are today so they can gain the resources that they need to be able to start a small farming operation,” Brown explained.
Anna-Lisa Cox, author of The Bone and Sinew of the Land: America’s Forgotten Black Pioneers and the Struggle for Equality, a book that focuses on Black settlers and Black pioneers before the Civil War, and Terry Cosby, of the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, are keynote speakers.
“On Saturday, we have partnered with various organizations from a national and local level,” Brown said. “We’re going to have a guest speaker from USDA talk about the work that has been going on with urban agriculture, specifically in our larger cities in Ohio, Cleveland, Cincinnati and Columbus. We have invited Cornelius Blanding, the executive director of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, to talk about the impact of the cooperative model.”
The Saturday afternoon conference will focus on breakout sessions concerning available resources.
Breakout Sessions Include:
- 1890 Land-Grant Resources, presented by Central State University
- Technical Assistance and Local Farming Resources, presented by the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association
- Farming During a Pandemic, led by Dr. Alcinda Folck, state program leader, Agriculture & Natural Resources, Central State University and Brad Bergefurd, specialty crops, The Ohio State University
- Succession Planning presented by local farmer, Branson Pyles
- Ohio Farm Bureau Federation – ExploreAg Youth Programming, presented by Kelly Burns
- 4-4:45pm – Where do we go from here? – Facilitated Discussion
Community Solutions, Antioch College, and The Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center are sponsoring the event. Ohio Farm Bureau Federation and Nationwide Insurance are lead sponsors.
“In unity, we find our strengths for the betterment of American agriculture,” said Adam Sharp, executive vice president of Ohio Farm Bureau. “We are proud to join our partners at Nationwide to support this conference and strengthen our entire Ohio farming community.”
To learn more or to register for the conference, go to www.communitysolution.org. Click on “Get Involved,” then select “Events” from the drop-down menu.
“Cheryl Smith, one of the conference planners, summed up our conference well by saying, ‘our roots are Africa, our land is America’,” Brown said. “To me, that summarizes what we are trying to achieve. Letting people know the historical aspects of Black farming, but also to prepare future generations for farming.”