Matthew and Althea Raiford, siblings in Brunswick, Georgia, are black farmers who care for the Gilliard Farm, a farm that’s been in their family for over 100 years. Spreading across 25 acres, the Raifords’ land has survived six generations and been free from pesticides and chemicals since 1876. The Gilliard Farm is the only organic farm within 100 miles of Brunswick.
The landowners, Matthew and Althea, are military veterans. Matthew was present when the Berlin wall came down and Althea was an MP at Guantanamo Bay. Althea holds two degrees in Forensic Psychology and Matthew is an executive chef. The Gilliard Farm is only one of two black-owned organic farms listed in the Georgia Centennial Family Farm register.
In the 1920’s, the number of black farmers was at 14.3 percent, which was significantly higher than it is today at 1.4 percent. The major decrease has been due to several factors: the processing of cotton changing to more mechanical methods, farm programs that were said to favor white landowners and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s policies that worked against black farmers in the1980’s. Today, black farmers are also grossly underrepresented in organic farming. An organization called the Southeastern African-American Farmers Organic Network was formed to create more opportunities, education and resources for black farmers.