Lexington Food Justice Podcast #14

Black Farmers in Kentucky

So in previous shows, we've touched upon – but have not yet examined the struggles facing farmers who are trying to break into the industry. Startup costs for farming is expensive and labor-intensive. Buying land – even just finding available land suitable for farming is a challenge in and of itself. And for Black farmers these pose even greater barriers because of the inequities and disparities they face.

So we invited Ashley C. Smith and Trevor Claiborn (aka Farmer Brown) to talk about a new Program they developed called “Black Soil: Our Better Nature” that is geared towards creating engagement and substantive discussions about this important issue.

Very compelling show. Hope you enjoy it too 👇🏽 

Listen to our Podcast!


Here's a Recap

About our Guests

Ashley & Trevor have such interesting and diverse backgrounds! Here's some of the highlights they discussed with us.

  • Ashley is a native Lexingtonian and graduated from UK with a degree in social work with an interest in equality, home place appreciation & representation pushed to the forefront.
  • Ashley currently works for Fayette Alliance - a land use advocacy firm that wants to make Lexington a better place by promoting sustainable growth through land use advocacy and education.
  • Prior to this, Ashley works 2-1/2 years for the Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center focusing on fundraising and development, as well as creating cultural programming for the Center.
  • Ashley has also been serving on the Management Team for the Crave Food & Music Festival. A 2-day local food festival that celebrates our burgeoning local food scene. And this year emceed the event, which is held on the 2nd weekend of August. 
  • Trevor is a Farm Technician and Extension Assistant at Kentucky State University. Though his professional background is as a hip hop musician in the Atlanta, Georgia area.
  • In 2007, Trevor started a lawn care business with some friends before entering Bluegrass Community and Technical College where he majored in Environmental Science and Technology. While there, Trevor noticed he was often the only African American student in his classes.
  • He then received a STEM scholarship to attend Kentucky State University, College of Agriculture, Food Science, and Sustainable Systems. And even though KSU is part of the HBCU System (Historically Black Colleges and Universities), Trevor continued to observe that he was often the only African American student in his classes.
  • One day, while Trevor was eating a hamburger with his young niece, he asked if she knew where hamburgers come from. His niece laughingly responded that hamburgers "grew on trees". Despite the levity of the moment, Trevor also observed a similar detachment from the food with other children he met. So he created his "Farmer Brown" persona as a program to help them understand our food system.
  • The idea behind Farmer Brown was to introduce our agricultural system in a culturally identifiable way -- through hip hop music -- to children and adults. And with the advisement and guidance of a KSU professor, developed the program into a research project. Trevor travels around the country to schools, community events, and festivals around the country.

Black Soil: Our Better Nature

  • According to 2012 USDA Census Statistics:
  • Out of 113,037 farms operators, 616 were black. This small but mighty force represents .5% of the sector in the state of Kentucky.
  • Currently, 505 out of 77,064 farms in KY are operated by black landowners.
  • Average farm size for black farmers was 80 acres totaling 40,446 acres across the Commonwealth.
  • Black farms averaged 31% less in their average market of products sold. Statistics reflect $20,181 average per farm for black farmers compared to $65,755 for non-black farmers.

Motivated by these, Ashley & Trevor created Black Soil: Our Better Nature to confront the troubling reality surrounding power dynamics of land ownership, food security, and institutionalized racism.

  • This Program is a series combining travel, networking, and exploring our agricultural roots. And offers a solution-based engagement created to confront the inequities and disparities faced by Black farmers in KY.
  • MISSION: To connect Black families in our urban and rural communities with Black farmers and producers across the state.
  • VISION: TO help foster a greater market share for Black farmers and producers as they provide healthy food options to a larger consumer base.
  • Through these events, Ashley & Trevor hope to connect folks to black farmers in KY. The first series will be at Barbour's Farm – a family based farm in Hart County. And hosted by Andre Barbour and Tehran Jewell (A Taste of Jewell Kentucky Farm)
  • Andre & Tehran will share their experience and expertise in this vital and necessary field.
  • And because the Barbour Farm is 100 miles from Lexington, the experience will  challenge  participants to step outside their geographic comfort zone.
  • The Program also features a Farm-to-Table dinner featuring goods grown on Andre & Tehran's Farms, as well as a Guided Farm Tour and a visit to their Farm Shop.
  • The Program challenges participants to ponder on the possibilities of how their presence is invaluable to building the morale and community necessary to help our Black farmers and growers in KY. And the event designed to welcome families and children. Young professionals, and more!
  • Andre & Tehran were guests on Hot Water Cornbread back in February 28, 2017. CLICK HERE 👉🏽 Andre Barbour and Tehran Jewell of Barbour's Farm: A Fourth Generation Black-Owned Farm in Kentucky Expands.

Challenges and disparities facing black farmers in KY

We engaged in a fascinating discussion about the challenges and disparities facing Black Farmers in KY. Here is a list of my own research that may provide further context for these concepts.

Up Next (October 27th)

Many THANKS again to Ashley C. Smith and Trevor Claibron (aka Farmer Brown)! And best wishes for a successful launch of Black Soil: Our Better Nature. The October 22nd event is already sold out. However, tickets are still available for the November 19th tour. CLICK HERE 👉🏽 Black Soil: Our Better Nature Tickets.

Please tune in to our next show on October 27th, 10 - 11 am, 93.9 FM WLXU Lexington Community Radio.

For our October 27th show we'll speak with Ryan Koch & Christine Smith of Seedleaf -- a local non-profit dedicated to nourishing our communities by growing and sharing food! Seedleaf is celebrating it's 10-year anniversary -- so we'll discuss its history and vision for the next 10 years!!