Black Farmers Face Harassment From Racist Neighbors, Deputies
A Black farming couple was arrested on seemingly trumped up charges earlier this month in Colorado, after they accused neighbors and deputies of racism and harassment.
The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office has disputed those claims made by Nicole and Courtney Mallery, who say they’ve been targets of repeated harassment and stalking, and were arrested on felony stalking charges themselves earlier this month, according to 9News.
Arrest of Black Farmers In Colorado Sparks Scrutiny Regarding The Treatment Of Farmers Of Color
Their arrests and accusations have since shed some light on the plight of Black farmers and landowners across the country, including barriers in finding and buying land without having generational wealth or an extensive credit history, alongside limited land for sale.
Courtney Mallery’s video went viral, with nearly three million views, showing what appeared to be a dead livestock. Mallery says it was deliberately poisoned by his neighbors.
And in Black-majority areas like Prince George’s County in Maryland, farmers of color make up for only one in six farmers in Prince George’s County, despite the fact that nearly two in three county residents are, according to the Washington Post.
Black family, farmers in Colorado. I’ve been terrorized by the white majority. And the media is ignoring the stories, this is not the first time in 100 years ago they were doing it. Run them out of town so they can take the land .#BlackTwitter.pic.twitter.com/NXbNQ4CEri
— Don Salmon (@dijoni) February 13, 2023
A History Of Racist Land-Grabbing That’s Led To Issues Black Farmers Face Today
Even there, Black farmers are not properly represented, in a space where the typical farmer ranges from White men in overalls to bearded White hipsters. And the issue is affecting tens of thousands of Black farmers.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, a study released in May 2022 found that Black farmers lost $326 billion worth of land in the 20th century alone. And that is a conservative estimate, Reuters reported at the time.
in 1910, Black farmers owned more than 16 million acres of land, but today they have less than 4.7 million acres.
Last year, Black farmers in New York had a total net cash farm income of -$906, while for white farmers it is $42,875, according to testimony by the Black Farmer Fund.
Today, 45,000 out of the 3.4 million farmers in the United States identify as Black, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Texas has the most Black food producers than in any other state in the country, totaling 11,741, according to the 2017 U.S. Census of Agriculture; making up almost a quarter of all Black farmers nationwide.
@blackvoices, @MLK50Memphis, @NBCBLK, @TheRoot, how much national attention is being placed on the ongoing saga of the #Mallerys out in El Paso County, Colorado right now. . .? pic.twitter.com/yNux0FUXCe
— Gilbert Barnes Carter III (@GilbertCarter) February 16, 2023
Colorado Black Farming Couple At The Center Of Racist Disputes With Deputies And Neighbors
The Mallerys’ case garnered widespread attention on social media after a publication called the Ark Republic shared the couple’s claims that racist neighbors have been constantly attacking their farm through vandalism and animal mutilations for the past two years.
The article included accusations that deputies failed to investigate the Mallerys’ claims.
El Paso County Sheriff Joseph Roybal and Lieutenant Christopher Gonzalez confirmed that the office has responded to 170 calls for service involving the Mallerys’ and their neighbors, with another 19 complaints filed against deputies have been investigated and deemed “unfounded,” 9News reports.
After reviewing the calls, the sheriff’s office said it did “reactivate” two cases, including one that involves the Mallerys’ as victims, however details were not released.
9News counted more than 20 restraining orders collectively filed by the Mallerys and neighbor Teresa Clark, whose properties are divided by an easement where most of the disputes have occurred.
The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office has released a comprehensive collection of reports related to the dispute here.
West Virginia farmer Gale Livingstone connects with neighbors through community supported agriculture. https://t.co/KjlS6lFLzc pic.twitter.com/VC77UAVdMH
— Chesapeake Bay Program (@chesbayprogram) March 25, 2017
Black Woman Purchases Over 50-Acres In Maryland, Speaks On Obstacles She’s Had To Overcome
Chesapeake Bay’s Gale Livingstone says she “lucked up” when she found and purchased 53-plus acres in Upper Marlboro that were once prime tobacco farming land in another era of the county.
The 50-year-old says it’s been difficult ever since. The pandemic certainly didn’t help things, and new debt from purchasing the land left Livingstone with doubts about launching Deep Roots Farm.
Regardless, she chose to farm, telling the Post that “I want my people to be eating the food” she grows.
“I feel like if I’m going to work like this and I’m going to grow this food, I want my people to be eating the food,” Livingstone said.
The problems Black farmers such as Livingstone typically involved money and land access, per the Washington Post. While much of the farmland across the country is often inherited, most African-American’s do not have the luxury, and are required to take out bank loans and deplete their savings for a venture that may not always turn a profit.
“The reality is the majority of folks don’t have land to inherit,” Andrea Crooms, director of the Department of the Environment for Prince George’s County.
Attempts To Remedy Racial Gaps In Farming, Landowning Over The Years
In Maryland, where Livingstone’s farm is, a $3.25 million USDA-backed program, a collaboration between county government entities, Bowie State University and the University of Maryland Extension, is a small step forward for Black farmers contending with a legacy of discriminatory practices that still leave them struggling to find land, money to buy it and support to sustain it, some Black farmers and landowners said in interviews.
In 1999, the federal government settled a lawsuit filed by Black farmers and paid out more than $2.4 billion, however court filings later found there were persistent problems in the discriminatory USDA farm loan programs.
And while campaigning, President Joe Biden vowed to bring equity to the Agriculture Department’s methods of supporting farmers with a a plan for rural America, centered on assisting Black farmers, according to NPR.
As a part of the plan, the Agriculture Department created an Equity Commission. And Congress, led by Democratic Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Raphael Warnock of Georgia, approved a large debt relief program.
Those interested in helping out Black farmers can donate to the Freedom Acres Ranch on CashApp: $blackfarmland or go to their GoFundMe page here.