Jenkins has leased land for Fresh Future Farm in North Charleston since 2014 | Ruta Smith

Fresh Future Farm (FFF) will sponsor the third annual SC Black Farmers Conference, a two-day event that will take place virtually and in-person on Sunday, March 28 and Monday, March 29. Registration opens on Jan. 15, and participants will be entered into a lottery for the chance to win one of thirty spots to attend the conference in-person from the comfort and safety of their cars. 

Hosted by the SC Black Farmers Coalition, the conference’s “Drive into Justice” theme “alludes to an era when Black people were excluded from many movie theaters in the 1950s, a time period where we also saw the narrowest economic chasm between Black and white people in the South,” a press release said.

Black land ownership has decreased at a steady rate since the 1920s, when more than 900,000 Black producers made up 17% of the U.S. farming community. Currently, Black farmers own approximately 4.7 million acres, and the 35,470 Black-owned farms make up just 1.7% of the U.S. total, a 2017 census reports

The announcement that the conference would take place in March came one week after U.S. Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) announced the Justice for Black Farmers Act, legislation aimed at correcting historic discrimination within the U.S. Department of Agriculture federal farm assistance program. Under the bill, an Equity Commission would suggest reforms and help Black farmers acquire up to 32 million acres over the next 10 years through a USDA system of land grants. 

Along with keynote speeches from the Rev. Heber Brown and Sha’Von Terrel of the Baltimore-based Black Church Food Security Network, Fresh Future Farm co-founder and SC Black Farmers Coalition chair Germaine Jenkins and other conference organizers hope to inspire a new generation of producers and address ways to sustain South Carolina foodways. 

“Our 2021 Black Farmers Conference will be more radical and results oriented than ever before,” Jenkins said in the release. “An equity audit based on coalition feedback and surveys of other SC Black farmers is the foundation of a robust conference that will be paired with a thorough schedule of trainings and certifications throughout the state. This plan of action gives us the tools and information we need to thrive.” 

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