In June last year, the chef Adrian Lipscombe launched the “40 Acres and a Mule Project,” a reference to the broken promise of reparations for American slaves after the Civil War, with the goal of buying 40 acres of land for Black farmers. In just five months of fundraising, she was able to purchase 38 acres of land in Helena, S.C., and a year later, Lipscombe plans to buy more land and to turn her dream of “preserving the legacy of Black farmers and the legacy of Black food ways” into a reality.
HENRY LOUIS GATES JR: The months following the Civil War and the start of reconstruction offered African-Americans in the South hope for equality. It also offered the possibility of owning land. Within months, African-Americans would be betrayed by a harsh reality.
ADRIAN LIPSCOMBE: My name is Adrian Lipscombe. My title, I have a lot of them, but I go by Chef right now at the moment.
40 acres project started last year, June 7th, in fact, off of the base that people were sending me money. And it wasn't towards anything, it was just as an initiative just sending money. And for me, I needed to put it towards something.
And so at the time, I had a restaurant and it was farm to table. And I was working with a lot of farmers that were having a difficult time because of the supply, the food supply that was happening. Restaurants were closing and they had a lot of food left over. And one thing that I noticed working in the area that I'm in is that we didn't have a lot of Black farmers.
I started looking up information about farmers. Discovered that they were less than 2% of farmers in the US that were African-American. That's shocking. And it's really just something that I didn't really expect. I expected in my area, but not around the United States. So I said, I am going to start an initiative that's going to look at buying Black Land, but also preserving the legacy of Black farmers and the legacy of Black food ways.
So do I plan on expanding? Hell yeah. We have to, you know?
There's this point where, you know, where you see where African-American farmers are located at and most of our food waste is South. We pushed in the South and we're still in the South. But we have some farmers that are struggling in the North and in the Midwest that need this-- that want this help.
But also, people in the Midwest and in these areas that want to know about farming and agriculture, and how can we give them this information. It's a daily thing where people are asking, how do I get land to do agriculture and farming? There's no easy answer out there. There's no handing of a handbook. So we're hoping to be that conduit in connection to be able to help people understand not just how to farm, but our history in farming.
For our spaces to be sacred, you have to look at our history. We did have sacred spaces. We had African town. We did have, you know, Tulsa was one, Atlanta. We had areas that were sacred to us because they were large majority population of African-Americans. I think this is just a new breed.