As Dr. Cornel West at the “State of the Black Union” symposium in Houston was calling Minister Louis Farrakhan’s plans for the establishment of a new government for Black people in America a “pipe dream,” one of the ministries of that new government was reporting its progress on Feb. 25 in Chicago at the Nation of Islam’s annual Saviours’ Day Convention.
On October 15, 2005, Minister Farrakhan explained the need for a Ministry of Agriculture, but he had already begun that process in the Nation of Islam. Since August 2003, we have been directing the development of the Ministry of Agriculture along with running the Nation of Islam’s 1,600-acre farm near Dawson, Ga.
The mission statement of the Ministry of Agriculture states: “Our major goal is to develop a sustainable agricultural system that would provide at least one meal per day, according to the Teachings of the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad, for the 40 million Black people in America. Also, this system should provide the necessary raw materials for the production of clothing and housing for the 40 million or more Black people in America. This requires the attainment, proper utilization and conservation of the useful land and using science and technology to make the non-useful land useful.”
To accomplish the goal of feeding 40 million Black people, we will need at least 51 million acres of land if we eat meat, or 6.3 million acres of land if we don’t eat meat. To operate this amount of farmland, we need $2 billion in equipment and 18,000 farmers.
There are two ways to establish the infrastructure or “lay the pipes” for our “sustainable agricultural system.” We must buy the land, equipment and train the farmers and/or utilize the existing Black farmers, their land and equipment. The Ministry of Agriculture of the Nation of Islam is using both approaches. Through the generous donations of Black people throughout the country to the Three Year Economic Savings Program, we have bought 1,600 acres of land in Georgia and have been in operation since 1995. In our continued efforts to make our farm, Muhammad Farms, a viable operation and a model for other Black farmers, in 2005 we installed a state-of-the-art irrigation system that included laying 7,200 feet of eight-inch irrigation pipe.
Although we are proud of our accomplishments in our farming operation, we realize that 1,600 acres is not enough acreage to meet our objectives. Therefore, we have reached out to Black farmers to bring them, first, back into business, then second within our food production and distribution system. We have been working with the Black farmers in their struggles against the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) since 1998. We have marched, organized and served as an expert witness in the Pigford v. Glickman class action lawsuit.
Minister Farrakhan also stated the need to help Black farmers by supporting legislation that is being introduced into Congress that would stop the USDA foreclosures on Black-owned land. He also stated that the Black community needs to set up grocery stores to serve as outlets for the products of Black farmers, not only to help the farmers, but to provide safe and healthy food to our people in the cities who are dying from diseases produced by a poisoned food supply. So, the Ministry of Agriculture began a letter writing campaign to influence the passage of the “Black Farmers Judicial Equity Act.”
Three years ago, the Ministry of Agriculture began “laying the pipe” for a new food distribution system for Muhammad Farms and other Black farmers by setting up food-buying clubs. We now have 11 active food-buying clubs in 11 cities. These clubs will eventually become cooperative corporations, and then cooperatively-owned supermarkets. We also have Ministers of Agriculture in 23 cities, who act as farm marketing coordinators that help educate our people and distribute our produce.
Each year, we sponsor farm tours and farming experiences for our “city cousins” and youths. We will be expanding our capacity to teach and train more students so they can carry this experience back to the cities and set up community gardens. We have also begun an “Eat to Live” tour to teach our people the life-giving instructions of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad on “what you should eat and what you should store in your houses” (Holy Qur’an, 3:48). We have been to six cities thus far and wherever we go, we leave the seeds for a new food-buying club.
The nine ministries that Minister Farrakhan talks about are no “pipe dreams,” because the Ministry of Agriculture is already laying big “pipe.” In the Ministry of Agriculture, we say let hope die if that hope is in the moral conscience of American Whites. White America did not care when they took Black farmers’ lands. They do not care that now the Black victims of Katrina are being stripped of their land and dispersed like refugees in their own country. We say let hope live in God, ourselves and our will to be free.
(Dr. Ridgely Muhammad is manager of Muhammad Farms. For more information, visit www.muhammadfarms.com.)