Friday, November 15, 2013

The Legacy of Farming with Ernest Frazier of Amite, Louisiana.

“He was born to be a farmer. It was something that he was good at, something he knew well. He was a giver of life, an alchemist that worked in dirt, seed, and manure.” ― Tracy WinegarGood Ground

Ernest Fazier
Like his father who was passionate about tilling the soil and making things grow.  Ernest Frazier is just like his father Mr. Willie Charles Frazier known to everyone in the Amite community as Mr. W.C. Just like his father, Ernest spend a great deal of time working and tilling the soil. What I have learned about men and women who are like Ernest and his father, they have a natural connection to the soil! It is in their blood and they look forward to planting  crops every year. They are masters of agriculture, some people went to school to get a degree to study agriculture. For Ernest and his father it came natural and was passed down from generations. Black farmers in America dreamed of owning their own land. They worked hard to make that dream come true.  Many black farmers in Tangipahoa and St. Helena Parishes wanted to operated independently from the white farmers or land owners. I heard many say that they wouldn't get the same price for their produce as white men and women in the community or markets.

Photo Credit: Walter C. Black, Sr.
The Census of Agriculture is now conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture every 5 years. The Federal agricultural schedules were taken beginning in 1840. The schedules provide information like the owner's name, acres improved and unimproved, value of the farm, farming machinery, crop and livestock production, and "home manufactures." 

Black farmers in America faced discrimination by the U.S. Department of Agriculture loans for decades. Women both black and white faced a discrimination as well. It is good to see men like Ernest carry the family tradition of farming on today. My maternal grandfather Jasper Harrell, Sr., and his mother Emma Mead Harrell were farmers.  Jasper's brother Palmer Harrell also farmed, I hold fond memories of farming with my great uncle Palmer. For the newly freed slaves, owning your own land meant freedom and a ticket to becoming independent and self-sufficient. One thing is for sure a farmer will never go hungry and they know what they are eating. Ernest enjoy watching the vegetable grow and certainly enjoy the fresh taste of squash, cucumbers, corn, beans, tomatoes, strawberries and sweet potatoes. He is the kind of man that shares with his neighbors just like his father did. After all the planting and picking, his wife Jo-Ann, cans the vegetables and make some of the best tasting homemade jams you want to taste.

She learned how to can from the women who came before her. I was very happy to hear that she held on to the tradition. It isn't that many women who are still canning. When I was little girl, I remember my mother and grandmother canning. Although I have never canned any fresh fruits or vegetables. I am willing to learn because there is nothing to compare to the taste. 

Thank to both Ernest and his wife Jo-Ann for holding on to those value lessons of farming and canning. It would be good to see them both co-author a book on farming and canning and how the tradition was passed on to them by their ancestors.