On September 9, the third annual Black Farming Conference will be hosted by Agraria Center for Regenerative Practice at Central State University. This will be the first time it will be held in person. Over the past few years, the conference has highlighted the impact of cooperative business models among black producers, access to land, and the contributions of black and underrepresented farmers in the industry.
This year’s theme will be Roots, Food and Tales. One of the speakers is Michael Twitty, an African-American Jewish writer, food historian and educator.
WYSO food reporter Alejandro Figueroa speaks with one of the conference planning committee members, Ariella Brown, about the importance of the conference and recognizing black farmers. WYSO is a sponsor of the event.
Transcript (slightly edited for length and clarity):
Can you tell me about how this conference came about and the need for this type of conference here in Southwest Ohio?
It was really an idea that started or came from Dr. Kevin McGruder, who is a professor of history at Antioch College. And so he had this idea of saying, you know, we should have a conference to really celebrate the contributions of black Americans, especially those who have been part of the farming community in southwestern Ohio. And so there really is a rich history of black agriculture in southwestern Ohio in particular, but also in the Midwest.
And so that’s really why we want to make sure that we honor a lot of the work that our black and underrepresented farmers have really been involved in since the founding of our country. And, you know, agriculture is really something that affects everyone because we all have to eat. And thus support our black farming communities specifically because we are generally underrepresented or left out of the conversation.
And this year’s theme is roots, food and storytelling. Can you tell me a bit what that means?
Yes. So the history and importance of storytelling in the black community is something really important. And so we really wanted to focus on being able to tell the story of black Americans from the very beginning until today.
And again, storytelling is really at the epicenter of black culture and the ability to tell stories from our grandparents and our ancestors to our children and grandchildren. To make sure we don’t forget our history.
Why do you think it’s important to have these kinds of conversations, whether you’re a black farmer or not?
Because, first, it’s important to know your story. Because if you don’t, then. It’s easy for others to use it against you. And I think for too long black and underrepresented people have been deliberately left out of the conversation.
So it’s important because there needs to be more fairness in all of our systems. And people must be held accountable for all the wrongdoings that have kept black people and economically underrepresented individuals in dire straits for so long.
Alejandro Figueroa is a corps member of Report for America, a national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms. Support for WYSO’s reports on food and food insecurity in the Miami Valley comes from the CareSource Foundation.