The annual meeting of the National Black Growers Council will be held Dec. 11 – 13 (nationalblackgrowerscouncil.com) at the Gold Strike Casino in Tunica, Miss.
In late October, Delta Farm Press spoke with P.J. Haynie, a farmer who’s recently ventured into the Mid-South. Haynie, harvesting soybeans as he talked, said a chief focus of the council is to provide minority farmers with work-related information. Among his other comments:
On Haynie’s farming bonafides…
“I’m a fifth-generation Virginia farmer and this is my first year farming in Arkansas. Last year, we (a fellow NBGC member partnered with Haynie in this effort) farmed in Mississippi.
“My father is back in Virginia managing the operation there – we farm outside of Reedville, alongside the Chesapeake Bay – and we’re coming off a bountiful corn crop and excellent full-season and double crop soybeans. Dad is very pleased with the crops this year.”
Rowing a boat
On education and early years…
“I graduated with a degree in Agricultural and Applied Economics from the Virginia Tech College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. While in college, I was involved with an organization called MANRRS (Minorities in Agriculture Natural Resources and Related Sciences). Most agricultural colleges and universities (1890 and 1862 Land Grants) have chapters that facilitate meetings intended to heighten the awareness on the availability of minority students that normally wouldn’t draw attention from larger ag companies. At those meetings, minority students can meet with company representatives, hand out resumes and network.
“Here’s the thing: in all four years of college, I never ran across another black student from a production background who was planning to return to the farm. There were plenty of students who came from families that formerly farmed and owned land but they weren’t looking to go back.
“So, I was 22 years old and a new graduate and had no idea there were other black farmers around the country. Dad and I often spoke about how there just didn’t seem to be too many of us.
“I was thinking, ‘here I am in Virginia rowing this boat by myself.’ As a young farmer, it’s inevitable you’ll have struggles. Well, it would have been nice to have had a shoulder to lean on, someone who’d been through something similar to share with.
The Monsanto connection
On being approached…
“In 2007, I was asked to serve on a black farmer advisory council for Monsanto. At the time, Monsanto was planning to buy Delta and Pineland cotton and the concerns of black farmers were at the forefront of some issues to be resolved.
“I said, ‘Well, that’s fine but I don’t grow cotton.’
“Dr. Dewayne Goldmon, who was then Monsanto’s Cotton Product Development and Marketing Manager, explained that Monsanto was interested in creating a Black Grower Advisory Council comprised of row crop farmers. He said, ‘That’s okay. I remember you from college and tried to recruit you. I think you’re a good candidate for this and you could come and meet the other black farmers who’ll attend.’
“That caught my attention. I said, ‘Other black farmers? Where are they coming from?’
“He told me a little more about the effort and talked about some of the others who were participating, and immediately I said I’d come. Honestly, and in a selfish sense, I was excited to meet the other black farmers I didn’t know existed.”
On the first meeting…
“That initial Monsanto meeting was attended by a dozen black farmers ranging in size from 12,000 acres to 300 acres. The almost instant comradery, the brotherhood and the ability to share ideas really resonated. On the second and final day of the meeting, Monsanto and all the farmers agreed that this was a resource that needed to be shared with other companies as well as with world agriculture.
“That was the genesis of the National Black Growers Council. The group was incorporated in 2009 and I now serve as the Chairman of this visionary group of farmers who operate primarily in the Southeast.”
On reaching black farmers…
“For whatever reason, information just wasn’t reaching black farmers. And important information still doesn’t filter down at quite the same level as our neighbors.
“For example, there was a huge corn farmer in Texas who hadn’t been told about Monsanto’s seed financing program. He was unaware there was other options to consider besides just going to the bank to get money to plant. Meanwhile, all his neighbors were utilizing an interest-free program.
“Of course, it’s a matter of dollars and cents. Black farmers aren’t typically the big spenders at the equipment showrooms and co-op and so salesmen go elsewhere first, to the A-list. That’s fine but our membership can benefit from learning about what’s in those showrooms and what benefits companies are offering.
“With that background, a group of us knew there needed to be a voice for black row-crop farmers. There are other minority organizations that dealt with things in the past – discrimination, reparations – and we applaud them. But our mission is skewed differently.
“We’re looking out the windshield, not concentrating on the rear-view mirror. We want to look at ways we can network and share opportunities with our membership. That’s it in a nutshell. NBGC’s mission is simple: To Improve the efficiency, productivity, and sustainability of black row-crop farmers.”
On the council’s activities…
“We’re looking to step things up. Right now, we’re holding about six or seven field days throughout the South. We call these our Model Farm field days and the goal of these events is to demonstrate effective, practical, and integrated usage of USDA programs and agricultural technology. Attendees are shown the best agriculture has to offer -- the latest equipment needed for establishing, tending, and harvesting crops, the latest on precision agriculture and GPS, and demonstration trials on the latest seeds and traits as well as crop protection products. We also feature seed company offerings and offer assistance and presentations on farm financing and risk management options. We’ve maintained strong support from various USDA agencies and have made considerable gains in cooperating with NRCS.
“After several years of the field demonstrations, we knew it was time to set up an annual meeting. On December 11-13, we are hosting our third annual gathering to allow minority farmers and landowners to learn and ask questions in an easy atmosphere. Our meeting will be held at the Gold Strike Casino in Tunica and interested parties can visit our website (www.nationalblackgrowerscouncil.com) for additional information. That’s important.
“We’re still fine-tuning this year’s meeting but it will include demonstrations, workshops, and comprehensive panels on all manner of ag-related topics: farm structure, USDA programs, precision ag, ag marketing, farm finance, insurance and many, many other things.”