Thumbnail image for this story (this will show up on the stories page of the site):
Relevant issues for this story, separated by commas (eg. war, race, gender):
Geographical region for this story (eg. Africa, Middle East, Southeast Asia):
North America
Relevant key words for this story, separated by commas (eg. Africa, Hurricane Katrina, Mother Teresa):
Missouri, Farming, Rural, Community
A short summary for this story that will go on the stories page (1-2 sentences):
These two Missouri families share problems with all small farmers, but are also threatened by racism, both historical and current, because both are black farmers.
Torsten Kjellstrand

1993 — student award of excellence

Eddie Linzie is a rarity: a black rural landowner increasing the size of his 40-acre operation. He grew up in the city of Columbia, Missouri, dreaming of being a cowboy. By the time he takes early retirement from his city job this September, he’ll be ranching full-time, just as his dream dictates.

Henry Logan in nearby Fulton, Missouri has 125 acres of land passed down through his family from an ex-slave who came to homestead in the late 1860’s. Now, Mr. Logan’s children see their father run a construction company, then come home to work another shift on the farm. They know there are easier ways to make a living.

These two families share problems with all small farmers, but are also threatened by racism, both historical and current, because both are black farmers.

I hope to show with my documentary project the diverse humans behind the label “black farmer,” to help people understand what might be lost if predictions of the demise of black farming by the end of the century come true. I’ve started working to understand communities of black farmers in mid-Missouri already. In Fayette, a community of black farmers live and work together, finding financing in their own community when white-owned banks turn them down. And in the ”Boot-heel” of Missouri, descendants of migrants from Mississippi during the “Share-croppers Revolt” in the 1930s still farm and maintain a culture revolving around the land. Their stories need to be told, before they are only memories.

Read more
Joe Richardson gets ready to head to town for some gas, implement parts and sodas. His daughter Monique tries to coax her way into the truck for the ride. His children, Joe, left, and Monique live with Joe all summer and on weekends at his farm. "If one of my kids wants to farm this place, that's fine," Joe says. "And if they don't want it, that's fine, too. All I say is keep the land. Don't never let the land go." 1994. Torsten Kjellstrand/Alexia Foundation
Eric catches a cool breeze on a hot day in the back of his father's pickup. Eric enjoys hanging around the Richardson farm, but he says he doesn't want to be a farmer himself. "It's too much time out in the heat," he says. "I want to be a ball player." 1994. Torsten Kjellstrand/Alexia Foundation
Jistin is just 11, but he already knows that he wants to farm. He likes being with his father, Joe, he says, and he likes the work. The farm his father and grandfather work lies a few miles west of New Madrird, Missouri, on the flat Mississippi delta country known in Missouri as the Bootheel. 1994. Torsten Kjellstrand/Alexia Foundation
A full day's work behind him, Joe Richardson takes a break to chat with his cousin J.D., who was driving by. Joe does most of the labor on his family's farm. His father Will helps plan which crops to grow, keep the books and figure out how to deal with problems like weeds and insects. 1994. Torsten Kjellstrand/Alexia Foundation
Will Richardson moved from Arkansas to the Bootheel of Missouri in the 1940s. He and his wife Grethel came with four children. Three more were born to them while in the Bootheel. Two live today. The youngest of their children, Joe, now works the 480 acres Will and Grethel accumulated during their farming life. 1994. Torsten Kjellstrand/Alexia Foundation
Elisha Pullen left his family's farm to go to college, where he became an accountant. As his father's health failed, however, Elisha found himself first taking over his father's role as pastor of the church, then starting to work the land his father and brothers worked. Today, Elisha keeps busy caring for his father, farming the land, and working as an extension worker for the University of Missouri, reaching out to small, minority farmers in the Bootheel. 1994. Torsten Kjellstrand/Alexia Foundation
Joe Richardson inspects a tall weed that grew on the edge of his flood-devastated soybean field. The Bootheel of Missouri was not as hurt by the summer of 1993 flood as were many upstream communities, but many farmers, like the Richardsons, lost 100 acre fields here and there. When the water receded the soil was hard and cracked. Next spring's planting will take some extra work on these fields. Joe and his father, Will, farm together near New Madrid, Missouri, growing cotton, milo and beans. They cannot grow corn, because they don't have irrigation equipment. Torsten Kjellstrand/Alexia Foundation
Airlean Peat waits for a shower to pass so she can continue hoeing beans. The most sophisticated equipment they own is a 1950 John Deere tractor, called a "Johnny Popper" because of the sound its engine makes. They weed their fields by hand several times per growing season. Their house has no running water. 1993. Torsten Kjellstrand/Alexia Foundation
Besides growing soybeans and milo, Airlean and Willie Peat raise chickens and hogs on their farm. Much of the meat they raise goes into their bellies. Torsten Kjellstrand/Alexia Foundation
Ted Pullen, left, and his son, Rayburn work on an International Harvester truck that was Ted's father's. The Pullens manage a middle-class lifestyle on their 500 acre farm. Now that Rayburn is finished with high school, he will work full time alongside his father. He worries about the future, though. If he marries and has children, the farm will not support both his family and his father's. Torsten Kjellstrand/Alexia Foundation