5 Decades Later, New Communities Land Trust Still Helps Black Farmers

5 Decades Later, New Communities Land Trust Still Helps Black Farmers

5 Decades Later, New Communities Land Trust Still Helps Black Farmers


Shirley Sherrod is co-founder of the New Communities Land Trust founded 50 years ago as a safe haven for African-American farmers thrown off their land during the civil rights movement.


About 7 miles outside of Albany, Ga., Shirley Sherrod stands on a dock overlooking a tranquil pond, Spanish moss-draped Bald Cypress trees reflecting on the still green water.

“They’re resilient whether you’re in a drought or whether you are in a flood. They last. And that’s the way we feel we are,” Sherrod says. “We will last.”

The pond is part of a 1,600-acre farm now called Resora, she says, to reflect that resilience and resourcefulness. The property was once a plantation owned by one of Georgia’s largest slaveholders.

“To know that many of them worked here on this property and they probably never envisioned a day when black people would have control of this property,” Sherrod says. “It went from a bad beginning which was slavery to descendants of slaves.

Sherrod was Georgia state director for Rural Development at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the Obama administration, but resigned nine years ago in controversy when Breitbart News edited one of her speeches to misconstrue her remarks as racist. She later sued Breitbart and reached an undisclosed settlement.

She is also co-founder of New Communities Land Trust, which was created as a safe haven for African-American farmers during the civil rights movement. These days the pioneering land trust is working to help rural black landowners profit from farming, and serves as a model for solving the nation’s affordable housing shortage.

A place to heal

Out on the farm, Sherrod drives to a grove of satsumas, a type of mandarin not quite ready for picking.

“The trees are full of oranges,” she says. “They’re green right now.”

You don’t’ find many African-American farmers growing satsumas in southwest Georgia Sherrod says. But the land trust is trying to show that it’s a profitable crop. Its mission is to find ways for rural farmers to add value to their operations, and find more lucrative markets.

The farm collective also grows pecans, muscadine grapes and zucchini squash. The site includes cottages and a fully-restored antebellum home used for retreats, and workshops.

“We look at this as a place where we can also try to heal,” Sherrod says. “We don’t look at this as just a place for black people.”

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