I am Mason Olonade and this is Jìgìjìgì: Africulture Podcast. Here we believe building a healthy soil builds a healthy soul so we share strategies for how to do both. To do both we ask two questions: How do you grow while you grow Kale, Collards, Tomatoes, and Melons. And why, do you think, the healthiest soils are Black?
Today we have Michael Carter Jr of Carter Farms in Virginia. A Century Farm out there. Michael has probably one of the more interesting stories that we will have on the podcast I think and it’s really my pleasure and honor to be able to say to you welcome brother Michael.
I really liked your talk at the Audubon naturalist society, Taking Nature Black Symposium or conference. I really like the metaphor and the sort of spiritual understanding that you had about one of your the workers that you had at your farm was talking about that his father said that you know he needs to go home, my father’s I need to come home. How you were saying that you were hearing that same message from your father would, rather you said that you had the wisdom and if you need to come home. So you came back from Ghana to to Virginia to the land that you’re on. Interestingly, I mean I think it’s interesting but what what kind of I guess what it what is it like now being home in America growing African crops?
It’s humbling in a lot of ways. It’s also inspiring, connecting to my ancestors who have never whose name they will never know and doing the work on their behalf. One of the things that keeps me inspired is that you know those ancestors who were taken from those shores, dungeons, etc, across West Africa, East Africa, Central Africa, etc, they had dreams and wishes aspirations and we got so caught up in trying to live the American dream, that we forgot about our African dreams.
And this right now allow me to relive and try to embody and African Dream. That makes sense text message from a nutritional basis from a and healing basis from a financial basis.
My markets are African grocery stores and restaurants. and you know I’m trying to build relations now with these individuals, that I may not have been able to formulate without these vegetables.
To create a more Pan-african solution based solution to our challenges that we face. Where we is can create and economic stimulus, not promoting it, not advertising it, we’re just doing the business. Growing a product that’s ideally suited for you, and you’re buying at a premium price. Your helping black farmers who are pretty much boycotted by everybody including black folks, across the world over.
So I’m putting, the Africans they help us, the black farmers in a position to be for us to be able to scratch each other’s back. and that’s some sorry that’s encouraging that’s fulfilling show me different weights so it’s taking that Kwame Nkrumah, Nnamdi Ezikiwe Jomo Kenyatta viewpoint of this Pan-Africanist view but putting in real Booker T Washington terms.
It was kind of making that link and it feels good I can get up in the morning and I know I have a Market for my things. This year end of this growing season, definitely by next growing season going to start doing more Afritourism. and really going to pick your own, a U-pick. To bring folks and I got a email from Africans all the time. “I want to come down and visit your farm.” Come now, get familiar with these items because no one is catering to their needs. So who’s best to cater to them than the Black Farmer, or another Black Farmer.
Because even if we don’t understand them I found it, coming from the Biggie Smalls perspective, “I don’t get high on my own Supply”
Collard greens you may be picking off a little bit to take your family-no. My garden egg, or my Managu, nah, I don’t need any of that, that’s all for customers. I’m actually a discipline farmer and all that is for these individual to be able to benefit.
And for us to learn from each other. They can tell me stories about the plants, I can tell them stories about the plants we can start to bridge a brand new narrative about Africa and our relationship to food, our relationship to these crops. How they got here when they got here? So I can I get so inspired by trying to tell the story not just to my family, not just to black people but the entire African Experience.
The deeper I go into it the more information I gathered. So I'm going down to North Carolina this week to pick up some okra seeds, seedlings from a farmer who said they traveled here right the turn of the slave trade on 1600s and went to the Catawba Nation of Natives here, and they’ve kept their own little stockpile of seeds since. So there is so much history that I'm gaining and connection I'm gaining to things. You know I don't like Okra. But you know as I’m learning about Okra I’m learning about Gumbo and Gumbo is the Swahili word for Okra. So then you have a connection to all those folks in New Orleans Shreveport Louisiana Mississippi Alabama and you started build those stories. And in a building those stories I feel like I'm growing people, growing Africa, growing character, I’m growing lineage I'm growing heritage, so I'm doing so much more than just growing some vegetables, I'm really growing me as a full African, Global citizen of the world.
Because as I start to learn about them and their issues and challenges in the present time, their history I can start sharing it with my children, I can start sharing it with theirs, it’s a great Synergy that’s growing daily.
It’s it’s it’s almost like a cross pollination. Everyday I’m I’m pollinating flowers, someone else comes and pollinates my flowers, we’re just kinda cross-pollinating. Because we’ve been and African hybrid for so long we’re trying to get back to being an open-pollinated species again. Trying to get to an heirloom species of African again. That’s the end goal of how I see my my farm. Now I’m a GMA, genetically-modified African.
I’m trying to reverse-engineer through the food, through the culture, back to being an heirloom African again.
it’s possible it just—
Most definitely, most definitely.
Wow, I was listening to some of the previous guests and I was talking about the necessity to you know for us to grow plants like my cotton and tobacco for some of the same reasons—
And I will be.
It’s so great to have you on the show and it’s great to to to to build a you know a Brotherhood with you because you’re speaking the things that I’ve been thinking about from your lived experience in that and that you know just as much as your lived experience is affirmative towards your being. You sharing them with me, is the same as it’s it’s the same. Because this is like I I’ve been thinking like this is what is going to be, and so you know you’re talking about this and it’s and it’s everything that I’ve and I thought I thought it would be.
And I mean it is even even deeper of course because this is beyond, because it’s not just like because you know, with with growing all of the different things that you’re growing and taking them to places like like Swahili Village that’s up here. It’s deeper than just growing cotton for for the, I guess in my opinion, than the than the sort of personal or ancestral sort of act of it because it like you said it is a Cooperative economics economic act. And you know here on the on the podcast we have talked about before about some of the different things that Urban farmers can do and because you know people just trying to sell Tomatoes if it’s a wrap it’s not going to happen.
You know the USDA every year was talking about ethnic crops near like you guys please please please grow ethnic crops.
I heard them
I remember when I was taking some of these classes over at UDC they were talking about that also. that it’s like you know you go if you grow these if you grow lemongrass you know like please try and do this because they’re all these different places in. and then you know but you know I don’t to be honest I don’t even know most of the crops that your growing because we haven’t talked about it but even you know outside of the time we talked about earlier on instagram with the African Nightshade and stuff like that but but it’s it’s still the thing that it’s like you know otherwise you don’t like I was I was talked about this with a friend but it’s like we all know the difference between fresh vegetables and dried vegetables and usually people have to import dried vegetables and rehydrate them in preparation for the restaurant.
But if you’re going that you know an hour or two away it’s like well yeah “I’m going to get that because it’s fresh.” and because you’re the only person out here that’s doing it I mean like you said you you can you have the opportunity to be able where you have to write an honor to be able to charge a premium for what you are providing because you monopolized the market.
And that’s key once you start talking about agriculture in terms of a long-term thing. For many as you know a agriculture is more of a hobby and for farmers, this has got to be a lifestyle and something that you can support your children on.
One thing that really drives individuals from not doing agriculture is they don’t see how money is made. They can’t see how you make a living from it so why do? if you can make a living? Why do you get a degree to get to earn a living. And if I can show you how you can use a grandfather’s land your grandmother’s land you know Auntie’s land to now create a good part time job or full-time job depending on the crops that you grow and in the market that you’re in, I feel like that’s much more my purpose. Because you can I’m going to go to Heritage thing for Afritourism, the cotton, the tobacco, the Indigo and tell that story The Peanut, the groundnuts, but I’m also glad to grow those unique crops that only I grow and Stow you okay I’m getting $15-20/lb for this vegetable right here.
I’m able to do this and have a indefinite Supply because of me supply and demand is critical. Now hopefully, none of your listeners jumps my business in this area, but if they do, we all good either way.
I’ve had good experiences in both East and West Africa and not taking that experience when I came back to figure out how to put together a proper what’s the word a proper business Enterprise.
I’m a century farmer. Five generations of my family have been farming on the same land since 1910. And you know I had no intention of coming back to the farm I told myself and I was fifteen I’m never doing any agriculture.
I told myself when I graduated from North Carolina A&T with a degree in agriculture economics I’m never doing any agriculture.
My father was an agriculture teacher so my hands were always in the soil. I had to go to FFA, I had to go to 4H. 4H counselors came to our cookouts and family functions. We were deeply involved in the culture of agriculture and I was deeply involved in avoiding the culture of agriculture.
Because as you move up there and you move up the Ranks you know it gets whiter and whiter and whiter and the connection is less and less. So when you go into the 4H or the FFA competitions, you’ll be the only black guy and you like okay this is my last one of these because it’s not comfortable.
So that’s a part of my Africulture process is not just growing the food but also for educating both our people and the general public about the impact and significance of us growing these foods, and our contributions to agriculture across the world.
You know there’s very few items that we have not had an impact upon. so you know Coca-Cola vanilla to the potato chip to the Indigo in your blue jeans all the things are African inspired crops that we have no clue about. and I went to the greatest HBCU ever; ain’t nothing about none of those, and that’s a disservice for us, at least in my eyes. Because we need to know more than just we picked cotton, we picked tobacco. We did so much more.
When did you realize you were supposed to have your hands in the soil is that after you came back from the continent or before or?
Well, no I realized when my father told me to put my hands in the soil when I was like or two or three. I didn’t have a choice in the matter, because if I had a choice, I never liked getting my hands dirty, but my hands were always dirty. I was always, at 3 and 4 my father had me in the garden picking beans planting seed and after I was finished I’d run and wash my hands.
I think it was around probably late High School, 16, 17 I’m cutting grass I’m thinking, I’m going to be in agriculture but I’m going to create a grass seed that only grows an inch tall so I never got to cut grass again. I’m work for ADM at the time, Archer Daniel Midland’s, and create a grass it only grows this high, because no one’s thought of it before.
So My mind was always center around there, as I’m talking to you I remember summer maybe somewhere around 1995. I remember being deeply engulfed in Up From Slavery by Booker T Washington.
That book was so mesmerizing. I’m remember being by that garden, be finished with the garden and go sit in the hammock and go read his book. I was so inspired this man from Virginia and then I can relate to him traveling to Richmond and staying underneath the bridges, on the curb on the sidewalks, on the streets. I can relate to the Hampton University aspect. And his work ethic was tireless and impeccable, “Ok. I’m inspired by this man.”
So I end up applying to Tuskeegee University, I got in, I just realized it was too far away to travel so I I didn’t go. I ended up going to NC A&T instead
But around that time, I say that from the time I’ve been born my hands have been in the soil, and round 16 and 17 I realize my hands will probably be in the soil even if I didn’t like it. Actually probably at three or four I realize that I didn’t have a choice in the matter. And as I learn more about my family you know we’ve been working the soil since we’ve been in this country which at the latest my people arrived in this country is around 1745, the last of my people.
My family history goes back to the Shirley Plantation, the first Plantation in North America in James City, Virginia. They started at Plantation in 1622. So a portion of my people come from Angola. So it could be very well possible that my people came here as early as 1622.
So I started to understand my hands are destined to be in the soil. My son’s hands will be in the soil. My grandson’s hands will be in the soil. It’s been with us. I can imagine as, as my history was, my people were agricultural people and this helps me to understand my purpose even greater now.
wow wow wow
Child says “wow wow wow!”
Peace and welcome have you know I look forward to to possibly having him on the show in a few years time since it is his destiny to have his hands in the soil, also.
He may be available next month, so they have a website carterbrothers.Net So my oldest will definitely be willing to answer some questions, I’m sure, whenever you’re ready. This is a part of our homeschooling / Legacy building. So if you go to their website you’ll see their hands are in the soil.
I did look at them the other day so yeah we’ll definitely have a will have a part two with your sons. That would be extremely fulfilling.
So let me ask Mike Michael what all do you have growing on this year?
MCJR: we have a lot going on this year this week we have some new hoop houses coming in, so we’ll be installing those this weekend so we can extend our growing season for the those African Nightshades and other things for our markets.
We’ll be starting our Africulture Tourism walk/road of Fame as we highlight the different contributions our family and various Africans and the various plants are made to our existence on this planet.
The road to the farm is about a half-mile long where we’ll have various stops along that that road of sharing experiences, sharing history, agricultural history dealing with African American’s. Plants, crops, if you can see your history with those ultimately culminating in a my great grandma’s house to have a family museum behind that is my field where I grow vegetables and my Uncle does cattle.
So we have in our green house right now, my uncle’s greenhouse, friend of the family we have Managu, which is African Nightshade. We have the Taro or the cocoyam or what we call in Ghana, Tumery leaf. So we grow that for the leaves. I have red Malabar spinach. I have a couple different variations of eggplant; mainly what’s called The Garden egg which is a little white eggplant I have a Boma which is a edible plants that you eat the leaves off of that well but most ridiculous I from Kenya to tomato and this is a red fruit as well but most people just eat the leaves. And from Kenya I have a Tree Tomato. And this is a red fruit that grows in East Africa, and it’s a unique fruit. I had it when I was in Kenya and I had to track down some seeds.
I have another one that I use called Bitter Berry with another in the eggplant family that creates little green balls, bitter balls. I can’t remember what they call it turkey berry or something to that effect, which is in all the soups in Ghana and Nigeria, etc.
We’ll also be doing some Amaranth, Nigerian spinach which is in the Celosia family. I just germinated some African bitter gourd which is almost like a drum-like gourd.
I’ll be doing some seed saving for Southern Exposure in a couple other companies with a red okra, and with a African groundnut African peanut. We’ll also be getting some other Okra varieties that are much more rare, from the Utopian Seed Project.
And then probably in the fall we’ll be working on putting in more green houses to extend our season because many of the crops we grow are tropical based. So we want to make sure to be able to extend that season for as long as possible and maybe even do some things indoors, if you can, at my grandmother’s house.
And then work in the spring to do some more African Cover Crops. And try to have a complete loop, everything that we are growing is going to have an African Center African Base.Whether it’s sorghum or another one called vicuna bean, another nitrogen fixer like cow pea or Black Eyed Peas so we’ll be growing that, it’s part of our cover crop rotation. In addition to some other crops, clovers, mustards, rye, and Tef, I’ll be looking to do some Teff as a cover crop. Probably some millets, whether it be finger millets or some sorghum.
We want to have a complete mix of crops from Africa, West Africa as well I’ll be growing Cassava was well. I get a lot of questions are cassava can we grow it and I got some now that’s rooted, germinating we’re going to grow it for the leaves and hopefully by end-of-year we’ll have a solid root as well. So we’ve got a little bit of stuff going on.
Just a little bit of stuff growing on. That’s what’s up, wow African Cover Crops.
Oh I forgot peppers, Scotch Bonnet Peppers, Fish Pepper, jalapeno.
okay cool did you say mucuna Bean? Okay that’s what that’s what I thought is that the lights of the Itchy The Itchy one like the velvet bean or something is that similar?
Yes it is similar, they are in he same family, the velvet bean is edible and the mucuna bean is not. But they’re both nitrogen fixers.
cool wow this is yeah this is a lot and that’s that’s very exciting I am going to have to pass forward you Che Axum’s information if you haven’t spoken with him ever, you have to, because you guys have a lot to talk about.
So how have you grown while growing all that you’ve got growing on meaning how is your well-being improved being in this soil?
My experience was in Israel and with the Hebrew Israelite community of Jerusalem, probably really opened up my spiritual and enticement with agriculture. Before it was just something I did because my father was an Agriculture Teacher. “Hey, this what we doing” and I just had to go along with it. then I saw some value in it try to create this genetically-modified grass that would only grow and inch. So maybe I can profit in that.
Once I returned to Israel, and that was around 2004 or so and I started growing, just being in the lane, and going and getting more insight about the agriculture there I started to feel a spiritual connection.
And in that process I’ve grown dramatically and Ghana really enhanced it. I stopped trying to go grow plants, I was growing soil, and I was growing myself let me do what it needed to do and I’ll just watch and observe. And let the plant be my teacher, let the microorganisms be my teacher.
So in those processes a lot of things were revealed. I had a I won’t say I had a psychotropic experience, I will equate it to that to give honor to that type of plant that I consumed called Vocacanga. I was in Aburi, and Aburi is in the mountains of Ghana I was working with Rita Marley her Foundation Rita Marley is Bob Marley’s wife. I was working on her farm, managing her farm. I noticed these plants and at the time I was always noticing plants and all those Facebook memes and stuff talked about how the various fruit shapes affected the different parts of the body and this little fruit looked like a brain.
you know when you open it up and a little I don’t know little beans in it it kind of like how the brain will look when you look with those little ripples and ridges. So I asked one of the guys who worked for me at the time, what was that? He said Voacanga and as I looked it up it was a psychotropic plant. Interesting. So I started looking at it and looked on the wild side and ventured into tasting it.
Worst thing I tasted that day. I got some of it down but a lot of it came back up. It was coated in this orange-gooey-goo stuff just, ugh, what is this? But I ingested it, and I attribute to that, when I ingested items eyes started opening up another way about the relationship about plants to the environment.
Reading a book from Steve Steven Buhner
plant intelligence and imaginal realm.
with a sequel to the probably, his fifth book after after this, he was the last language of plants is one of my favorite books.
And that one started to show me sharing some things that really opened my eyes to how the plants work with us, how the plants are growing and investing in us, sort of, you know, turn invest in them. And I started to see my relationship with the plants as being more of a sibling relationship than me being domineering.
And these are my older siblings, because in the Bible, when you add most additional, the plants were here for the creation came and lasted, but the last beings that were created with people. And if in that thought process, if the earth is the mother and this high intellect is the Father.
And that tree hugger experience because, you know, we would have various types of stress in Ghana. There’ll be usually self induced, I will call them self induced American inspired stress. Hey, you had to argue something. It wasn’t that it was deep. It was just principle.
And you had to argue about the principle. I’m arguing over a nickel, over 20 cents, over a quarter. That ain’t
But then I would hug this tree. I will. I will have a coconut tree. I’ll hug a mango tree. And all that extra tension, energy and stress will just come off me. I’m not sure you ever seen the movie Green Mile but that’s what it felt like that tree was sucking all that negative energy away from me.
I started to say oh my goodness they got another type of power with them so I started to you know respect their existence a lot more than what I’ve done and that’s where it’s kind of grown to now with me, I have trouble cutting down trees Am I you know I have trouble
stepping on insects have to tell my sons hey don’t put water in it and hope that that let that be respect them okay just like you know with as with watching the Black Lives Matter protests we’ve had those protests last 20-30 years you know George Floyd was minding his own business just like Mr. Ant, just like Mr. Spider, mind his own business trying to feed and support his family, there’s somebody come up and step on him.
now I hate to have ants march on me. I’ve seen driver Ants in Ghana and they marched on me and mess me up pretty pretty good one time so I I know the power of the ant. That’s a whole nother story for another time.
You ain’t gonna bother, you ain’t gonna step to them like that you ain’t gonna violate them not those ants. They gonna give you something to work with.
They gonna give you the business, just like we, you know and start to respect that existence a lot more. And then I started to delve more into the micro biological aspects and realize that those were our ancestors.
When we start talking about honoring our ancestors. When we go into the soil, we get broken down back these micro biological organisms. And these become when Marcus Garvey were talking about in terms of, we talked about becoming part of the hurricane. Right now the hurricane force winds are created by this bacteria that’s coming off the ocean. This bacteria is
almost a human forms, but the remains of our ancestors cross across that Middle Passage that were thrown over into the Atlantic Ocean during the beginning of our passage when we were in those dungeons, and those remains would have eaten my fish, consumed, decayed, and became that bacteria
to come in, redeem and call back their sons and daughters back to their land again. So I started to look at the atmosphere, microbiological principles, and really get into this deeper than that. And because our ancestors maybe didn’t have the words to call them bacteria, protozoa, fungi, but the Bible, they called it a creepy thing. They couldn’t see it, but they knew it was there. They knew, you know, in Africa, you see sacred forests will tell you don’t go into that forest. That’s where we bury our people.
And I felt like the Ewe and some others, some other you know, nation groups in Africa who were much more well protected because of their our cultural understanding and relationships.
Those things. So like the Ewe weren’t actively involved in the slave trade. And they knew people weren’t actually taken.
yet they’re right next to the Asante, right next to the Akan . It was a very small body of water that separated the two.
But you won’t find any, I don’t think you’ll find any Ewe who actually captured and taken, you know, taken like that. They had a different type of file almost I won’t say that wasn’t any but I haven’t found any yet. So, you know, this is part of my growth process.
And with that,
you know, of work to grow myself and be a better person, a better being on this planet, and really trying to just allow me to be a vessel to tell the stories of these other beings that are here with me. That’s a long answer, but that’s what we grow into season.
That’s very interesting. Linking
linking the the guy remember, I really do like a lot of the Buhner books also, and, and especially when he was talking about the the the, the my microbial life within the home affecting the entire atmosphere, but I don’t
Right. Right, right. But what’s more phenomenal to me is linking that to the conceptual hurricane.
Well, you know, as Garvey said, I’m gonna meet you like a whirlwind, right? And, again, if you you know, as the those names and other things that said, though, they follow the trade routes of those ships that came. And our bodies were thrown across those things time and time again over the course of 340 years. And that’s that’s the energy that come that came up and I know there’s no record, you know, wouldn’t be any record of the Hurricanes happen before we started coming over here. And as enslaved but you know, I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s when it started.
Do you know um, and then the the the other thing that you were saying with
the with us
ancestors being the bacteria not just in a in the sort of overarching planetary time capacity but also in terms of us and our and our ancestors it he gives a an additional depth towards my vacation and employing it, you know that um, you know that wherever we are there’s there’s somebody down there who were providing, at least you know, who were quenching somebody’s thirst, one of one of them
is just thirst, or plenty of Yes.
So I think that then it’s a I mean, I’ll still ask for your confirmation. But needless to say, it seems that you do believe that we have a special relationship with the soil. And if that is the case, then how do you say we would potentially hate that connection?
I think we do. But I think that all of us do. Oh, you know, not everybody has that connection or will have that connection. That’s part of the, the genetically modified aspect of us. There’s a species of us, there’s a group of us who do not have never respected here have never respected our relationship to their
who not recall this reading about,
let’s say the Parthenon in the book called the Parthenon coat. And it talks about the significance of Nike, which is right on when Nike, Nike was the Greek god, the Greek god of victory over the God of Noah, over the God of that and they resented or hated what their relationship to the earth Through always very destructive when it came to here. And that same spirit and energy is still around us. And it’s not based upon colors based upon mindset. Because we talked about, you know, you hear people talk about pagan, or your pagan or your heating. And he’s pagan, this meant villager, somebody who grew up in your, they call them this and then they demonize these individuals. And they were indigenous individuals across the planet who had this relationship with the earth, where you go from Polynesia. Where do you go from, you know, within Africa, Native American, South America has always had this relationship with yours. But it was a species that came in and said, No, I’ve got to capitalize upon this relationship. I got a I got to earn something. She doesn’t deserve my respect. She didn’t deserve my value. So I think many of us we had it, you know, when it touches you, touches you. But there’s been so many things that disconnect us from the earth. This isn’t a physical thing. Have a sidewalk without walking on without walking barefoot on so that’s where I started really received my connection when I started to walk barefoot like the work has worked for me on my farms. Like why y’all bear for howdy y’all work with a hole and scared to toe known Indian masters. And you know so when I came back my sons now me they are always barefoot. They you know, and this in our bodies, there’s a certain you know, the toes, the feet brother have a whole bunch of nerve ins. And we didn’t those things we put on our shoes. And we stop having that connection with my mother. Right from the shoes on put your socks on. Don’t walk into the ground, walk on the sidewalk walking walking the talk. So we’ve lost that connection. So you now you get somebody to walk on grass on rocks, and they can’t do it. No matter how solid The grass is. All day they walk on is st at a beach and that’s not too hot. So it’s a you know We’ve lost that connection with, with who we are, but a lot of us can easily find that connection again, through our diet through our reading through understanding. So we’re working on you know, I’m working on recent sighs myself. And I think that we can Our strength is going to be that week next year is going to have to start unfortunately for many of us do the economic value of agriculture. But I think economics is a gateway to your soul. When you start doing our quote, you start to understand more thing, you start making money, but then you start to really get into the cycle of nature. Right. So, you know, in that respect, yes, we are connected. And that’s, you know, I’ve learned that you know, the closer I am to the soil, testing stuff, not wearing gloves, not wearing shoes, you know, being very conscious and mindful that that’s my mother, man. Ha you know, it’s hard for you to go home and not just your mother’s not give your mother her. You know, if she’s six You got to you know, embrace it, you got to hold a hand. My mother right now I won’t say she’s sick, but she’s, you know, she’s been assaulted quite a bit. And it behooves us to now reach out and touch our mother again and say, Mama is gonna be our mother Africa is gonna be our mother America is gonna be our land is going to be okay. Your sons are here to protect you. And in that gesture, your daughters are here to protect you. And that gesture, we can now you know, redeem ourselves by redeeming our mother. We’re not gonna have any respect for anyone else that you have respect for your mother. I mean, it was always fighting words growing up, and somebody talked about your mother, especially at a certain age. You know, especially if you’re somebody who didn’t, who didn’t know you who you didn’t know. And when did you join in and planning does you want to call it it was your mom it is Oh, that’s how you feel. Okay. That they were that young saying so? You know, I can’t have anyone to remember the aspect of my mother that I worked in on any kind of way.
It still is so weird to see people actively litter. Like, it’s like, you know, for me, it just makes me think like it. You know, it’s so foreign to me for for that, but then, you know, like, like you’re saying, for that same person it is foreign to them to not later.
It’s a matter of respect. And I find that that
those who are constant have no problem not literally. You know, everything has a place. And again, it’s a mindset, that thing that Yeah, I can just show it anyway and somebody else will clean it up, pick it up, or they don’t matter. And everybody has this challenge at some point in time that I had. This was a great challenge for me in Africa. Because Lord knows
the littering is like ooh,
Like a and not every aspect about Rwanda is so clean. So beautiful. So lush, not, I mean, beautiful they have a day set aside, when they clean up the litter that means that somebody may have dropped. Wow. But in Ghana
not nearly the same store.
Know so it’s, I feel, you know, it hurts my soul because you’re disrespecting my mother. But at the same time, you know, we all have a responsibility to educate and to help and to create a new reality and a new standard. We didn’t always you know, there’s been a certain plastics and things have led to littering because in Ghana, I think we call very vividly when I first arrived, it’s a lot more natural. I was a plastic natural paper company they use leads to trap up their food and
now to use plastic bags
when they call robbers. So it’s a you know, when you leave and you throw it down, guess what? It went right back Consider now you put that plastic bag in it’s causing the gutters it’s you know it’s littering there you know so it’s we just have to be more much more mindful I may cut you off for that
now this interview is all about you
man it’s not it’s not it’s not so much about me man it’s it’s it’s no problem Feel free to interrupt me
whenever you whenever you please. Why do you think the healthiest soils and black microbes
but Missy? Well we have been human humans is naturally black. In Ghana, they would always tell me which are wrong Oh, it’s good black soul, black dirt, get the black dirt. And I think this those microorganisms again, because that’s what creates the soil. And those macro organisms have the ability to create that tilt in that color. I don’t put on much as color as I do fertility. And since the black woman is fertile,
it will make sense that the black soil will be fertile.
So, in that respect, I mean, I think that’s, you know, kind of that that the biggest relationship is, you know, Our sisters have been able to endure and reproduce and provide, despite whatever challenges and likewise, black soil seems to be able to do the same thing. Often think for you reflect upon that resiliency, is our curse is so resilient, we probably wouldn’t be in this situation. Because we are, and we’ve been able to endure and survive. It’s almost a cursed superpower. nations have really said, Okay, enough is enough. We can’t take any more. We’ve never reached that point of I can’t take any more because we always knew we could take whatever you handed us. Whatever you gave us, whether it be, you know, the Haiti situation where the average age of a sugar plantation workers in the 1700s was 22. Were you would you know your life expectancy was six months to a year. Once you arrived there, because they wrote you for 24 hours, even in that, Tousaint L’Overture. You’ve had a memory of the brother’s name on top of my head, but that band of brothers to come together their band of sisters to come together and fight all the biggest and baddest army on the planet.
Right? Yeah, Dessalines,
yeah, so I mean we’ve had those, you know, the black acres and those things have had these various variants here where we could you know, would it be Gabriel’s revolt? Would it be that Turner’s insurrection would it be the one in Florida, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, somerset, someone said something. But anyway, down there in the 1700s and the countless other individuals who withstood the test of time, I think, you know, just like with the soul we be able to deal with and whoever is dealing with us
Tillage, For a lot of soils was awful. Why are you telling me why are you raking this heavy piece of whatever through my skin destroying and you’re creating these scars in my in my skin, but even in that they felt the sort of sound music and likewise reflection to the soul, you know in the Hebrew soil is equatable to almost man. So in the Hebrew, you have a DOM or Adam, right? And you have a dama out there that you grow in. So there was always a connection even from that particular vantage point there was a connection. You know, in many African indigenous traditions, we were said to have come from the soil. And again, it were the original people and ideally the original human people that will make sense that we were carved or came out of that soil, which would have been equatable to our skin tone. So, you know, within those processes, you know, we have, you know, this long history and existence of being a part and parcel of our mother, again, of the soil of this earth, that contains all of the minerals that our bodies contain, in direct proportion to how our bodies are composed to give you a complete synergy of soil and soul,
soil and soil. Soul
I saw that you, um, that you you also do some some consulting.
I’m not trying to get you to giveaway game,
but I know that I know that it is. in this very weird point of history right now that we’re going through. I know that some people have probably asked you questions about getting started.
But what are like maybe two questions. This is this is two questions that they should be asking you about growing that they
aren’t asking you about growing.
The first question is, I would say
That’s an interesting question. Because I do get the question all the time. And you know, I got a question before the COVID I got this after the covid this because you know, my work in people wanting to get more involved in the soil. Yeah, and I would question before making a question I would ask them, I would tell them start small, man, cuz I hear individuals come to me all the time. Say, Hey, I got two acres. I got one acre, got 50 acres of land. What can I grow? Like, bro, you gotta grow some patience first. Because you can’t Yeah. Realistically, you cannot. I mean, I had one of my phones in the boats I was working with, we were brought on two acres. We had 22 workers and we were still not, you know, we could use some more to be you know, so it’s, you know that I encourage individuals start at home. If you’re an urban grower, you know, use a static tradesmen mustard cups mo milk cartons, put some soul in it, plant some seeds, buy some crops from, you know, from Home Depot, Walmart, you know, garden center, wherever, and start the process of turning your greens on black. No, we all have black thumbs. Exactly. It’s a matter of, again, working that relationship and not being scared. Don’t be scared to fail. Yeah, because you’re gonna learn so much from growing something that you’re gonna learn about how to take care of something you’re going to learn about, you know what it’s telling you when it doesn’t get what it needs. for male female relationships, it works great. If you’re listening, when a male doesn’t get the proper thing on female, proper thing, the children are the properties you have tomatoes. And you may not water consistently so you could blossom and grow. But what happened where you didn’t feed that tomato properly is missing as minerals. And now you had this black spot at the end of your tomato. Okay, what did you learn from it? Well, I need to warn him. Yes, you need to make sure that that water that that plant has what is neat terms of water in terms of minerals all the time these calcium the you know, yeah, yeah. So you have to kind of understand why you’re growing and then be open to growing with the plants that the plants do pretty much everything you just kind of sit there and watch an ad from water. That like you’re assembling leaves, building a good structure. You’re not doing any of that. You’re not doing the hard part. I’ll do the practical baby seconds. Man. You know say and you To understand that the plant is a living breathing, that seed is a living, breathing organism. And when you understand that chair for like a baby like a child, give it what it needs. So beneath breast milk, have a nice water every day you give that every day and said Germany’s and his life cycle is a lot faster than most children. But, you know, it has to be that we understand that we are guardians, we’re not and maybe managers, were not domineering. And that’s, you know, over these crops. So that’s why I would advise people getting started, start small. Start with understanding and patience. Biggest thing you’d have is patience, not fear to fail. If it doesn’t work out, then you just got to improve the techniques you use, or you use on them. You got to get better at managing the crops and environment that’s needed to help them grow.
The the I think, I think the patience Is the that is the most bountiful crop you harvest every year. Every year is a is a, it’s a whole different type of patience that I’ve had, I’ve gotten out of the soil
and, and in a much larger bounty. And it’s
also harder to, it’s harder to harvest every year. Probably because of my own ego as I’ve worked with, with everything because I’m like, you know, I, I got I got this inherently to me, you know, and and i and i man if I can grow corn downtown, surely I can go some tomatoes, you know, wherever and it’s like maybe, you know, it’s it’s, um, it’s very interesting and so I I’ve told people this the same thing is like look you just worry about just just focus on your patients and and and I like the metaphor that you provided with with the child also because I try and as much as possible equate
to your experience because you know your experience more than anything I just told a brother that was, you know, he lives in a sort of, you know homeowner’s association type community he was worried about his lawn and there was a sort
of weird spot on the side of the sidewalk
and I said, you know, just give this part of your lawn the same patience that you would give your hairline if the barber pushed it back
because that that part that part was getting basically all the runoff from the roof and then the sidewalk and it was all the seed is being pushed out further. And so it’s like you just have to let me just tell a gardener don’t come and Garner any come, you know, and cut over that because Nothing’s gonna be able to grow there because it’s always it’s always getting shaped up ultimately and so once I said that to him he was like whoa
and you know in it and so it’s yeah so anyway um our podcast is based on as Yoruba Owe or proverb Jigijigi ko see fa tu a firmly rooted plant cannot be uprooted What is your favorite agriculture or plant related proverb or saying
I would say it’s probably Bob Marley’s you know
term of “they tried to bury us but they didn’t know we were seeds”
that you know as always resonated with me because the seed process fascinates me just like to seed it’s buried. The seed looks a certain way, we can see that seed. But in the process that seed comes apart, all of his insides come out, you know, it gets pretty much virtually destroyed from the inside out, you know, and then there’s, you know, a tail and it grows from it, it’s a really bad mutation. And then after that portion, then a part that comes up and tries to push through that. I like to say on their manure that many people generally had to go through, all people don’t have to go through. And once you’ve been through that manure, you know, you realize oh my goodness, and you can’t become that beautiful flower. You can’t become that beautiful plant until you push through that manure. And as you grow further and the more you grow, the more you get to draw attention to yourself. So, you start drawing attention to yourself, you get insects coming, then you get fungus and then you get you know, airborne diseases coming or you may be Issues nematodes your roots, your past is coming back to the mess with you again or that’s coming back to you. So, in those realities, you know, it’s big that seed speaks to the human existence. And then finally, you get a farmer who comes to pick your best fruit with your best season for its own benefit. Whether or narrowly that tomato would drop its fruit to the ground, and those seeds, but fall to the ground and be able to come up again. But instead it goes to our stomach or to our plates to our sandwiches, and at seed most likely will never see the ground again. So is this a unique scenario that I find it and I appreciate that message from Bob Marley, I’m not sure if he meant it in the context that I have understood it, but I think you know, when you bury something you don’t realize is the sea. And we’ve been buried in this country in this Western Hemisphere for a long time. We keep producing time after time again.
Hmm. Why I definitely I, you know, I’m somewhat of an enormous hater. And and most times that people have said the proverb that you’ve said, I do not like their usage of it. But from here on out, I’m going to assume they’re speaking towards your understanding of this metaphor.
I appreciate that. I’m glad I could give you a different insight. That might give you a good one. I know what people were giving before I could have gave him George Washington Carver. I watched it. But that was the one that came to mind when I asked you is the most almost easy to remember. Yeah. George Washington Carver. This one’s a lot more complex. And you know now than that Shorter two phrases. Yeah.
Yeah, no, I mean, and I want I want, I want the one that you think of first, you know, it’s, it’s this is this, this whole thing is, you know, we as we as African people, and the majority of our cultures seem to be with the oral tradition. And so that’s what this is, you know, it’s just recorded. So it, whatever, whatever, whatever comes to mind is what I want. So, um, I know that we, you know, we’ve recommended a ton of resources I probably more than I’ve ever done, but what is, uh, what is a resource that you’d recommend for those looking to increase their agricultural understandings?
I would definitely say well, depends on what level but I would start with your George
George Washington, Booker T. Whatley’s book if you’re trying to get into market gardening or agricultural vocation, yeah, very clear. I get what I’m trying to get away with book
is how to grow. Oh, sorry, I have I have a copy of it the one about $100,000 on 25 acres. Yeah. Yeah. Okay.
That makes sense. Yeah, we get that and you know, I’ve talked to an interview with Jim Martin Fortier. Okay, who wrote the Market Gardener. and you compare it to books, he’s pretty much saying what your Booker T Whatley was suggesting, you know, just 25 years 30 years earlier about how to grow, how to market etc. and brought with you widely Dr. Booker T Whatley was a professor at Tuskegee, who understood the value of trying to create a business out of farming. I think There are several good books on how to grow again, depending on what you’re trying to do. I like the Lean Farm. My name Ben Hartman, lean farming principles in terms of being efficient and effective. Definitely the market gardener. I like the historical and the practicality of my sister, my soul and my soul sisters. I call her Leah Penniman Farming While Black but I really liked the Buhners books. Yeah. Last language the plants and I think it’s the plant imagination or plant something other than imaginal realm Yeah. Which really opens your eyes and mind to some of the other realities outside of basic plants. How they are can communities. Yeah, how you know the respiration works is significant to larger planet I mean
trying to think of some other books and resources, you can go to court of TheCarterfarms.com and I’m sure I’ll have resources and at some point in time who else is another book? That is, those are the ones there. Again, depending on what you’re trying to do, like black church food security network is a good resource to try to find local black farmers. Virginia State small farmers program in the ploys of who I work with, is a good resource and search extension and getting help with how to do certain things. Penn State University’s website is awesome in terms of podcasts and classes, workshops, lectures. I think Virginia State is e x t.VSU.Edu Penn State University is psu.edu I believe. Then if you’re looking for like seeds, I mean, Carter brothers dotnet that’s my son’s company. They’re doing some seeds right now in southern exposure. See the shame. So trees So true seeds, High Mowing and Johnny’s. Depending on what type of seeds look for where seeds were Baker Creek tree,
and I would say the most valuable research resource that anyone can use is their elders. Talk to your grandma talk to great uncle Briana. They want to give you some stories about the land about what they grew and all that that I can share, to tell you about yourself, your history, your legacy, beyond what a book been shared with. Those living resources need to be valued a lot more. And you know, your great uncle of the great aunts or uncles and Auntie’s and grandparents, they want to share that. It was a part of their history that depending on surfaces they may or may not be proud of. But they would like to leave them to share that aspect of the story and have an understanding that maybe you’re interested in getting into it again. I found and sharing with my oldest about my interest in data were inspired by the fact I was interested in coming back and doing that type of work. So, it’s one of those things that those valuable resources are critical to a person’s personal drive. You can get inspired by books, you get inspired by YouTube podcasts and all that. But the inspiration and looking at your grandmother’s space and you, she’s telling you about how to pick cherries, apples, how you choose to pick the tobacco, you know, and remember, you know, see all the time with a nut not not gonna forget those times. Right? Those are things that I mean, in stories you can pass on to your children, much better you can pay to the quote from a book.
You know, it’s a trip. One of the I had previously interviewed farmer Gigi, and she had recommended your interview with Jan 48. And,
and I was listening to an interview I was like, man, I gotta figure out who this brother is. I got a brother, man. And so when I, when I, when I looked it up on YouTube, I was like, What? So, you know, I, you know, I’ve heard that I didn’t think he was that good. I was, you know, it was, you know, I really wanted to really delve into, you know, some things with him because of how he’s answering the questions I kind of pulled back and also couldn’t answer certain questions because because I was work with Virginia State University, right. So certain spiritual aspects I couldn’t answer or couldn’t ask rather, some are and some XM off camera that was maybe captured on the video. And, you know, I’m always curious if you’ve had the time. You know, I’m definitely flattered that people thought the video was very good. I was. I just did back in United States for two months. You know, I’m saying I mean, I was inspired. I liked his book. I was watching his YouTubes and following him I was in Ghana. really inspiring. By wed seen and heard, I mean $100,000 in one acre and I got 185 acres. Let’s do the math on that.
Yeah, we can do it. Yeah, we’re going bowling barn out of the barn.
So, you know, when he shared those things, you know, he was a very pleasant person to work with and talk to. And I just was, you know, I’m glad that people liked the video. I mean, the interview, I tried to ask some questions that I knew people were asking, based on the interview that I saw. So this wasn’t this is not going to be as an i and one thing that because of the demographic I work with black farmers, small farms, is that you know, I understand his demographic was as a white, French Canadian. Yeah, there’s a different reality to that black farmers have a whole different marketing strategy. We really had to wear a mask. You know, because you go to farmers markets, and you know, farmers markets generally are based on relationship in terms of who your customers are. And if we’re not going to farmers markets and our numbers, like I recall in DC, I went to go visit the farmers market right at 58. On the south of the South East capital Street, behind 58 housing complex. It was closed down. Like, whoa, we’re in that we know. And it’s been Yes, less than a year of resistance and it already being closed. I’m like, Oh, my goodness. Yes. No. So people are trying to do all this food access work and food deserts. It’s like, No, we got to get to a beginning point. You got to help people understand that this is good food for the nice. You know, this is America where you want it and when to pay for it’s coming to your neighborhood. You know, it’s supply and demand. So the reason why there’s not a lot of food in these neighborhoods is because the man is in bed and has one who has I work with a group that grocery store and tried to run a black grocery store and invest in a back grocery store in DC. And to see that firsthand, we had to close down that grocery store. I know firsthand the challenges that come with that reality of having kale and watching on the shelves for a week or two waiting for people coming by is that you know, at a while you kill order goes down tremendously. And you get more and more processed foods because they have a better shelf life. Which, which protects your pockets a lot more than that. Kale. That’s a week that’s when I was expiring. We and only after three days. Am I gonna buy it again boy, right? No. So, you know, I have a big issue with I mean, I enjoy you know, so I wanted to kind of bring the context with Jim. Just kind of this some realities. It’s like, Okay, I understand what you’re doing and people are inspired by your work but it’s not the same you know, our environments situation, different How do we cater that to the black prom experience?
Man we got to get we have to have you on again so that we can we really can just go deeper into the economic aspect of of farming and everything like this because there’s enormous promise in it I mean you know we were we were watching on my girlfriend are watching the show Ozark and you know this it’s all about the main character is a laundering money for one of the cartels in Mexico.
And he the only way that all of this is happening is because somebody somewhere is growing heroin
a whole nother issue.
That’s obvious getting hit in that conversation. A lot of times nobody kind of equates countries with, you know, supporting our troops. Yeah. This is crazy. This is how intelligent are we we can’t see that the rise of opioids has a direct correlation with food and fighting for the last 10 years.
Yeah, that I mean, that. And especially, you know, because it is a tough conversation to have, because people think that, you know, they’re two different things about, you know, making money while farming because if you think about it, like, which crop Can I grow with the highest return on investment? That’s the crop.
You know, but that’s not going to provide you with much of a life at all. And I would even challenge that, just to say that it’s not the crop that had the highest investment grade Don’t be that much. Yeah, that’s true. You know, you know, so
some of the highest return on investments are microgreens.
you know, potentially and hemp seeds as opposed to hemp itself. You know, marijuana seeds pose Some of the offshoot things we don’t necessarily consider think about it some of the highest grossing crush in short term realities, you know. But again, that’s another conversation for another time. But it just bothers me is you know, individuals don’t make that connection that, okay, we go to war with a country who’s the major producer of x, y, and z, the rise and opioids and morphine and all these other opioid base things. And we don’t see the correlation that maybe we’re there to grow and conquer those fields. We thought it was the oil. Oil
was placed on in the mountains.
Yeah, exactly. Well,
what is one question you wish I asked you?
I’m a real funny guy when you naturally act. When I wish you saw that question or heard that question. I thought, how do you get to be that sexist, but I’m not From a male perspective, that’s not a question that I want you to ask me.
I’m funny like they don’t, I’m a part time comedian. I’m foolish, my thought process some way.
But I think one question that I probably would want you to ask me was
how do you see the future
of agriculture trapped Americans
so, okay, so what would you have said, If I would ask you that question.
I said, we’re in dangerous species. And if we’re not careful, we’re gonna be extinct. You know, my sons can’t do it alone. You know,
you can vote on me.
My sons can’t do it alone. And right now, the black farmer, you know, we’re down to maybe you know, 25% of where we were in 1978 D, I was born. So we’ve all seen 5% of our farmers in 40 years. 42 years. Another 40 years just doing the math. Yeah, we’ll be extinct. Do White is occupation on the planet or at least America is white land on white farmer or farmer on the white farm farm. So, we went from being the individual going everything to the individual not growing anything. And our strength and our resilience, my my great, great grandparents vision to be able to acquire with at the time they didn’t have 150 acres of a turn out at the surveying it’d be 185 acres. They acquired, you know, 150 acres of land in 1910 on a 1910 sharecropper salary. I would love to ask them how they did this for $720. Wow, how do you acquire that and they weren’t the only ones maximiliano in Orange County, Virginia, we as you know, I my neighbor, our family friend, a neighbor, a Morton Terrell, he had another 300 some acres during that same time period, down the street from us is a town called free town. They had another hundred 200 acres they had as free back people. And they didn’t have PhDs that have master’s degrees didn’t have high school diplomas, but they understood what the value was in America, land ownership. And even without their 40 acres and a mule, they still acquired more than 40 acres and a mule. And we have our mindset has changed about what is really valuable. None of us shown escalate or have a bottle of Hennessy until you have a good link. You know, that value should be at how much name we got, how much you know, land is The only thing that keeps and maintains is that I made to say if individually came in in 2000. Like I did 2001 bought property in DC, man, I bought my house in Saudi for $119,000. That same property now is probably worth 250 to $400,000 over the course of 20 years. Yeah. You know, and it’s only gonna encourage my aunts who live at once, gosh, strong black woman, very this mindful, who bought properties right beside the National Arboretum, ran place near St. 1950s. They paid $50,000 for them for approximately $40,000 those homes now $600,000. Right.
They had a vision that we don’t
and if we don’t give our children that vision, we won’t be here to do anything. We’ll be living all in apartments. You know, there be a black city. Oh, Blackie we’re living in one apartment building on one block that it will be extinct. You know, we’ll have no black farmers do support us and we’ll be you know, pretty much Ward’s of the state. And that’s what you are, if you do not own then when I look at their quarreling and you know, we have investments of the sort, we have 401 K’s, we have health insurance plans, but we don’t have a land management plan. Many of us are walking around dirt rich, and we don’t even know you folks down south got land, and you’ll see that as value. got, you know, that is for the average price landing about $5,000 an acre. And you know, really the real price of that being about $11,000 an acre and rising. It doesn’t, you know, it’s, I want to send that down and not to be trying to farm but it’s our responsibility for our children. You want to give them something You want to give them a future getting something figured out some corresponds to get a car? No, they need some land.
Anyway, that’s my preaching.
If you would like people to how can people contact you?
They can contact me at Carter farms va, firstname.lastname@example.org. Then go to our website at thecarterfarms.comyou can go to my son’s website at Carterbrothers.net. You can reach me on facebook Carter family farms. Michael Carter, Facebook as well. Instagram is probably caught up on us VA. I don’t do much Twitter, tweeting none of that. You know farmers we don’t spend a lot of time at work. We try to spend a lot of time on social media during a growing season. But yeah, they can reach me on those, any of those
Many, many thanks to Michael Carter Jr. for sharing his wisdom and experience. Please visit Africa podcast.com for the full show with your friends, family and closely related siblings of the soil, leave us a five star review wherever you listen to and we will say then as we say now, Asante Sana, Medase Pa, Modupe O!
Thank you for listening to Jigijigi.