|Growing Future Farms
We first met Willie Robinson along with his wife, Marcella, in 2000.
The Fresno couple is following in her ancestors' farming footsteps. "My
grandfather and his family came here in the late 1800s. This is the Monmouth
Bowls area of Fresno," said Marcella. The Robinsons are one of just
300 African American farming families in California. That's less than
half a percent of all farms in the state and a 95 percent drop since 1954.
These statistics can be blamed on farm mechanization, lack of financial
support and an aging black farmer population. But the Robinsons are members
of a group that's working hard to change that.
Recently we revisited leaders of the African American Farmers of California
to how their seven-year-old organization is fairing today. It seems they're
ranks have grown, proof that part of their multi-pronged mission is on
track, according to spokesman Will Scott. "We want to sustain the
existing African American farmers by giving them the training and tools
to be successful. Beyond that we want to train futures generations,"
Scott's daughter, Michelle is one of them. "Now you find their kids
no longer want to go into farming because it's hard work. That may be,
but it's also very rewarding and there are many aspects to it," Michelle
said. The recent college graduate is using her Masters Degree to help
the farming group better sell and promote their fresh produce.
The group sells at farmers markets in Los Angeles and the San Francisco
Bay Area. Scott says they allow his organization to bring quality produce
to inner city people who otherwise might not have access to it. They're
also growing such uncommon things as peanuts, black-eyed peas and butter
beans, many of which are being tested on Robinson's 16-acre demonstration
farm. This farmers' group is learning ways to improve the soil through
conservation practices and drip irrigation. These are practices they hope
will entice you African Americans to find farming as rewarding as the
generations before them.
For more information on African American Farmers of California contact
them at P.O. Box 12464 Fresno, Ca. 937718. You can call 559-442-1893.
They sell at the Oakland Farmers Market: Mandella & 7th street every
Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The Fresno location is at Church
and Martin Luther King Blvd. From 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.