(FinalCall.com) – On Nov. 12, Dr. Ridgely Muhammad announced that Muhammad Farms would name its planned agricultural training building and dormitory the “William Muhammad Agriculture Building,” in honor of Nation of Islam beloved pioneer, William Muhammad, who departed from us at the age of 104 three days later.
Muhammad Farms had hoped to raise enough money to build the building before he had passed, so that he could see that his work and name would not be forgotten by those that benefited from his expertise and sacrifice.
“We now must develop a new breed of farmers and agricultural professionals, if Black people intend to be ready to do for self or die a slave, as the victims of Hurricane Katrina learned,” said Dr. Ridgely. “The government of the United States showed the world that it either does not care or cannot help those who cannot help themselves.”
Young Black people have called or emailed Muhammad Farms, wanting to know how they could become farmers. Unfortunately, Muhammad Farms informed them that they did not know of any university that actually taught how to farm.
“The agricultural programs at the universities, both Black and White, train students for careers in the agribusiness industry, but not how to run a farm. In many cases, an agricultural student may go through four years of training and never set foot on a real farm,” explained Dr. Ridgely.
Farming requires a set of skills that one can only obtain through a combination of field experience and classroom training,” he added. Skilled farmers attend many seminars sponsored by their local agricultural extension service to keep up with the latest production techniques and advances. They obtain and pass on to their children and other farm workers their most important skills by hands-on experience. However, the policies and practices of the USDA have destroyed the desire for farming as a vocation in the children of Black farmers, Dr. Ridgely argued.
“The Pigford v. Glickman class action lawsuit may have been the final nail in the coffin of Black farmers,” he pointed out. “The Black farmers’ children are astute enough to know that they would be committing economic suicide to take over and run their parents’ farms.”
To combat this, the Nation of Islam’s Ministry of Agriculture has advanced the idea of a system of agriculture that is involved in all phases of food production, processing and distribution, where control is maintained “from the land to the man.”
“I came down to Georgia in February 1995 as the farm manager. I came with undergraduate and graduate training and degrees in agricultural economics. However, I had enough sense to know that I needed the advice of an experienced farmer from this area of the country to be my farm production adviser. Allah (God) had preserved such a one in the person of Brother William Muhammad,” recalled Dr. Ridgely.
Bro. William was 93 years old when Dr. Ridgely met him. He had been the advisor for this same farm in Georgia in the 1960s and ’70s under the leadership of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. At that time, the farm was not 1,600 acres as it is today, but 4,500 acres.
“When I got here in Georgia, Bro. William taught me about the soils, the climate, what types of crops grew well down here, the time to plant, how deep to plant the seeds, where to get the best seeds, where to find the right equipment, how to fight the weeds and insects, how to fix old used equipment, what business people to deal with and stay away from,” Dr. Ridgely continued. “In other words, he taught me what I could never get in a classroom and, therefore, could never teach to students in my courses that I taught at North Carolina A&T State University. He not only taught me, but he had the strength and vigor to demonstrate what he taught, although he was in his 90s.”