If you've had the pleasure of tasting the incredible pecans we feature in our Produce Bags, you can thank New Communities. Not a farm itself but a non-profit organization and community land trust, New Communities is based in Albany, Georiga and works with over 40 farmers. Their vision is "Preserve. Farm. Culture," and their unofficial motto is "cooperative living, learning, earning and doing together empowers a collective group of people."
New Communities' story is one of resilience. After the kindling of the Civil Rights Movement, African American farmers in the south were being banished from their land for their involvement. Charles and Shirley Therrod created New Communities in 1969 as a safe haven for these farmers with objectives of complete self-sufficiency. Though New Communities and its members faced discrimination and oppression, they eventually farmed 1,800 acres and operated a greenhouse, meat processing facility, and farmer's market. Throughout the 1970s, New Communities became well-known for the cured meats and a model for community land trusts to come. Sadly, a drought struck their area of Georgia in 1985, and African American farmers were denied the emergency loans that white farmers received. New Communities lost everything.
Years of legal battles finally led to restitution and New Communities began anew, aiming to give voice to issues like food access, environmental and social justice, and land loss by African Americans. Today, New Communities aims to exemplify community empowerment, with education, awareness, agribusiness, and wealth-building as their toolkit. They also preserve natural areas for wildlife and human enjoyment, generate revenue with crops, and provide a nexus for teaching and learning agricultural practices. New Communities is also a social space and venue and numerous facilities, including restored antebellum houses used for events.
Many African Americans have deserted farm life, and the younger generations don't always want to hold on to their family's farms. For many, working the land is still associated with slavery. New Communities works to conserve historically African American-owned lands and build awareness of African American agriculture before slavery, demonstrating to new growers that growing your own food offers self-reliance, sustainability, and income.
New Communities farmers grow a variety of crops, including satsumas, grapes, summer squash, broccoli, cabbage, collards, kale, mustard greens, pecans, and turnips. Pecans are native to the southeastern US, flourishing in its warm weather, high humidity, ample rainfall, and well-drained soil. The longer southern growing season means pecans are available when everyone else is worrying about frost and snow! The fresh, whole in-shell pecans that we offer in our Produce Bags are grown by New Communities farmers and are a welcome addition to our cold season bags.
By growing lucrative crops like pecans, African American farmers in the south can reclaim the land that was taken from them. Our members can enjoy super-healthy fresh foods, even in the winter, while helping supporting an equitable food system.
Cover photo courtesy of New Communities Inc.