Black farmers say decades of discriminatory USDA practices forced many to close their doors

BRAZORIA COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) – Jeremy Peaches was born to get his hands dirty.

“My last name is Peaches,” he said. “My grandfather worked on a plantation in Mississippi where they grew peaches.”

About 50 miles from Houston, in Brazoria County, in the heart of Rosharon, is the Peaches Family Farm and Fresh organic products of life.

“I am first and foremost the chief farmer,” Jeremy said. “My brother is in charge of distribution like most of our farmer’s markets. My mother and aunt take care of most of the books and administrative matters. As well as my girlfriend … she takes care of all the stuff. billing.”

These are just one of the few black-owned family farms in the Houston area, but across the country, black farmers are disappearing.

According to US Department of Agriculture, there were 32,000 black-operated farms in the country in 2017, down 3% from just five years earlier. A total of 8,011 of these farms remain in Texas. This is the most in the United States.

ABC13’s Chauncy Glover caught up with Peaches a week after the historic winter storm in February.

More than 100 people have died in freezing weather in Texas, many of them from hypothermia. Many families have been without water and heat for days with no indication of when power could be restored.

“[We’re] trying to recover as much as we can, “Jeremy said.” I took my last one, last year, and planted five and a half acres, and in one day it was all gone. “

The Peaches family are no strangers to tough times throughout their farm’s history.

“I remember them beating the hanged black man and calling him the ‘N word’ which was disgusting,” said Helen Peaches.

The family’s 15 acres of land have been cultivated for three generations. Helen inherited the land from her mother and then passed it on to her daughter, Toni Peaches, who then passed it on to her son Jeremy. He said he faces some of the same issues his ancestors faced.

“There were times when I applied for certain loans or even grants and I was just turned down… for frivolous reasons,” he said.

Currently, black-owned farms represent less than 2% of all farms in the United States.

For decades, black farmers have faced unfair treatment and discriminatory practices. Many of them have been deprived of their hard-earned generational wealth.

“We have been slaves, we have been sharecroppers, we have survived Jim Crowe, and here I am speaking to you,” said the president of the National Association of Black Farmers John Boyd in Glover. “Another African American man in 2021 about a group of people who have been totally excluded from a big federal arm in this country. It’s a national disgrace.”

Boyd said black farmers have faced all kinds of intimidation tactics and have been barred from receiving loans. He said they even had land confiscated and sometimes their crops were destroyed. Not by Mother Nature, Boyd said, but by man.

“We have lost millions of acres of land to the US Department of Agriculture,” Boyd said. “The discrimination happened in the hands of the Democrats, it happened in the hands of the Republicans, so you can’t say it’s a one-party problem. It’s pervasive and has been going on for decades. because of a county committee system, a three-member panel made up mostly of 99% white men who prevented black farmers from getting loans. And when we had problems, they were the first to remove farms from stocks. “

However, help is on the way.

Through President Joe Biden’s US bailout passed by Congress, Farmers of Color will receive $ 5 billion, most of which will be used to pay down debt. It also includes funds for education, training and grants for the next generation of farmers.

Meanwhile, Boyd said he was working with New Jersey Senator Cory Booker to push the Justice for Black Farmers Act.

The bill would grant 20,000 experienced black farmers 160 acres of land until 2030.

“We wouldn’t have to go through what our previous generations went through, we will automatically at least have the land, and from there it would be up to us to do what we do with this land,” Jeremy said.

Jeremy and his family are excited about what’s on the horizon for black farmers, saying that while that doesn’t help matters, it’s certainly a step in the right direction.

“Farming is hard work, but you know we’re very resilient people. We have a strong family, ”he said.

Watch live TV news and in-depth reporting from ABC13 on your favorite streaming devices, like Roku, FireTV, AppleTV, and GoogleTV. Just search for “ABC13 Houston”.

Follow Chauncy Glover on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Copyright © 2021 KTRK-TV. All rights reserved.

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