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Who We Are

SAAFON members Telling Our Story

Organic production is the fastest growing segment of the agriculture sector. Reasons for this include consumer demand, health and environmental concerns, and economic potential. However there have been several reasons African American are not certified organic farmers. Many agricultural professional in the South do not advocate organic production, and for some farmers the daunting and lengthy 19 page application process was a deterrent.

On July 6, 2006 farmers representing 15 African American farms from Georgia, South Carolina, and Alabama gathered in Savannah, Georgia for an intensive three day organic certification workshop. The workshop was a collaborative effort spear headed by Cynthia Hayes and Dr. Owusu Bandele, professor at the Southern University Agricultural Center. Both shared a burning passion to increase the number of certified organic African American farmers in the South.

The first organic training sessions were a component of a regional project involving the Southern Food System Educational Consortium (SOFSEC), which included a number of historically black 1890 Land Grant Universities, and community based organizations. The project was initially funded by a grant obtained from the United States Department of Agriculture, Initiative for Future Agriculture and Food Systems (IFAFS) program. Southern University was the lead in the organic component.

The results of the first organic trainings were historic. Farmers traveled for hundreds of miles. At the time there were no African American farmers certified organic in several southern states including Georgia, Alabama, and Louisiana.

News of the success spread rapidly. Demand for another workshop was immediate. The next workshop was held in Columbia, South Carolina.

The farmers requested an organization that would identify and celebrate their success. The Southeastern African American Farmers Organic Network (SAAFON) was formed soon after the second training. With coop membership, SAAFON is now 121 farmers strong in six states and the US Virgin Islands.

The farmers that are a part of this project have already taken a giant historic step in improving the economic and environmental sustainability of their farms, while increasing the chance of preserving a vanishing yet important resource...our land.

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