Abdullah Mohammed Oral History Interview
July 26, 2006
Transcribed by K. Brown
Interviewed by Eleanor Green and Emily Weaver
EG: I’m Eleanor Green. I am sitting here with Abdullah Mohammed in the Alcorn Demonstration Farm outside of Mound Bayou, MS, July 26, 2006, and we are working on the Delta Black Farmers Project.
EG: Can you tell me your full name?
AM: That’s easy. Abdullah F_________ H___________ Mohammed.
EG: Ok. And can you tell me about, uh, when you were born?
AM: Long time ago. Ha ha. Twelve, twenty-three, forty-eight.
EG: And, uh, where were you born?
AM: A little small town in central Florida, just ‘bout thirty-two miles north of Disney World, called Eustis, Florida. E-U-S-T-I-S.
EG: Eustis, Florida. And, um, tell me about your parents. Were they from Eustis, Florida?
AM: My mother originally, uh, was born in Greensborough, North Carolina and I think they moved, uh, her and my sister, her older sister, moved to Florida when we were small children from, I guess, Columbia or near…Saluda, South Carolina…near Columbia, South Carolina.
EG: Uh, did your family farm in Florida?
AM: I’ve got a really….really the history of my grandfather was landscaping. Also, he worked on…in the harvesting citrus…that was the mainstay occupation, uh citrus ‘cause that was a citrus promoting region. And um, when I look back further than that, uh, I’ve got on my father’s side, I’ve got uncles who farmed, sharecropped briefly, and then worked for maybe two years near Ruskin, Florida and then grow vegetables. And um, he educated all his children. He sharecropped for two years, paid off his, his uh, his loan, which is unusual because sharecroppers don’t…always come up a step short no matter what the crop is. But he paid ‘em off and began to grow vegetables and educated all his children…college and everything. Lived to be over a hundred years old, you know. So, I think that’s where my… between my grandfather on my mother’s side, my uncles on my father’s side…I think that’s probably where the agriculture interest comes from.
EG: And what is your position here at the Alcorn?
AM: I’m a research scientist.
EG: And um, you have a Ph.D. in horticulture?
AM: Horticulture, um, minors in vegetable crops. I mean minors in plant breeding and international agriculture.
EG: Um. Do you have a Master’s degree as well or did you just do…?
AM: Yeah, I had a Bachelors degree in agriculture economics, uh, Tuskegee, at the time Tuskegee Institute and a Master’s in what we call plant and soil science with a concentration in horticulture at Tuskegee Institute, now known as Tuskegee University where I worked on the, uh, a very famous horticulturalist, who is deceased now, but uh, plant breeder and horticulturalist, known for sweet potatoes and muscadine grapes, Dr. ____________ Whatley . And then I went to Cornell uh, because under his tutelage, he pretty much wanted me to go to Cornell. And if Booker Whatley wanted you to go to Cornell, you went to Cornell…you didn’t argue about it…hee hee he. Matter of fact I can remember deciding where I wanted to go to graduate school for a Ph.D. And uh, I got about ten applications to different institutions that I though I could go to…Ohio State, Michigan State, Florida, Cal Davis to name a few…and then uh, he told me point blank, he said, “You can spend your money and waste your time applying to those other universities”….cause it cost, it was a fee of ten or twenty dollars at the time and money was tight… I was a graduate student who was married, uh with one child at the time… “But you can go to Cornell. I can get you in there, but you got to keep yourself there after I get you there.” So I just applied only to Cornell and I was able to get in and keep myself there…hee hee he…just like he said.
EG: And you degree from Cornell is horticulture…and what did you say your minors were?
AM: Plant breeding and international agriculture. Actually, the degree is called vegetable crops, but they’ve know changed it to horticulture. Of course, hort is four different areas, but I specialize in the scientific name of vegetable crops…it’s called ________________. So I specialize in vegetable crops with breeding and international agricultural minors.
EG: How did you end up in the Mississippi Delta?
AM: Well, I had been in the Delta region, uh, because I had, I’ve been to several institutions…Southern University. I think I first started out at Lincoln University in Missouri…in the boot hill…and then from…and that was my first job as a graduate. And then I was recruited from Southern University to work in a farm program as a horticulturalist, uh, which was exciting cause, you know, Baton Rouge, Southern University, small __________________ resource farms who I wanted to work with anyway and who I always had an affinity for. And then from there, I went to uh…from Southern University, I think I stayed there maybe two and a half years; I went to University Arkansas at Pine Bluff. Uh, I did a short tour there and at the same time the University _______________________________ was recruiting me around the same time that I was interested in going to Arkansas. So, I stayed only there for one semester and then I went to Saudi Arabia to become an associate professor and their cultural research station director. I stayed there from ‘88 to ‘92, I think it was…end of ‘91, close to ‘92, during which UAPB, University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff recruited me to come back. From the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, uh, I stayed there until 1997…from ‘92 to ‘97…or from ‘91 to ’97, I’m not looking at my resume. And then I went to uh, I was recruited to come over here to run this facility as a research station director. And uh, also what we call, what they called at that time a coordinator. Alcorn State Demo and Research of Technology Transfer Center and also as a project leader _______________ horticulture extension, research projects, ________________. So I had two hats that I wore. And I ran this facility until…from around June of ’98 until the end of June of 2001. I began to do extension and research work. And now I’m 100% research.
EG: And what, um, kind of research do ya’ll do here?
AM: The primary…we function on what we call alterative crops…sweet potatoes is a…a major emphasis on sweet potatoes. My emphasis is on sweet potatoes. I do variety evaluations on sweet potatoes, variety evaluations of greens and southern peas. I do cultural practices that limit the…the insect called wide worm…this is the notorious pest of sweet potatoes. I try to work on that by using cultural practices like crop rotation and companion plants and resistant varieties to control that…eliminate that pest, which causes a lot of losses…millions of dollars of losses in sweet potatoes. And I’ve done some GPS studies with sweet potatoes and that’s essentially what we’ve done over the years. Now, we’re planning on going after the most destructive pest is that sweet potato weevil. We will also include that in our research.
EG: Is it similar to the boll weevil?
AM: No…well, in damages the boll was destructive in cotton as this thing is like the boll weevil of sweet potatoes. It uh, it limits your ability, if you grow sweet potatoes. For instance, anywhere in Mississippi south of I-20 is considered to be weevil quarantined…it means that you cannot ship your potatoes to markets outside of that area. So it has an effect on you as far as economics is concerned. You have to try to sell everything that you have. Plus, I remember how destructive this pest is. Uh, I knew about it when I was at Macon…I mean Southern…University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. One of the extension persons brought me a potato that happened to have this sweet potato weevil in it and he asked me, he said, “What is this?” I said, “Where did you get this thing from?” He said, “Off a farmer’s farm here near Pine Bluff. I say, “That is the notorious sweet potato weevil.” I say, “You must quarantine that farm. Probably have to…whole county may be quarantined.” And that was the first encounter I had with it, just finding it directly in the field. The other encounter I had with it, my professor Dr. Whatley at Tuskegee, and he had tried to do sweet potato research at Southern University from the ‘50’s up to ’69, when he moved to Tuskegee because he could not do the research there, because they get 2000 plant species that the sweet potato weevil can survive off of. Uh, so, when I first came to Southern University in 1983…’84…beginning of ’84, I began to do sweet potato research there also…variety trials. It was utterly impossible for me to anything because the sweet potato weevil…I’m trying to see if I can show you some damage…it just completely devastates the sweet potato. So that’s an important thing that we need to work on. What we do in stage is we quarantine and we trap. That’s basically what we do, and we spray. We have no resistance to it. Uh, we’d like to look at some biological control methods and we’ll also have to look using fungal diseases to attack it and maybe predatory ants to attack it. That’s the line that we’re going to look at and go from there.
EG: Um, what is the history of the demonstration farm? How long has it been here?
AM: The demonstration farm….some farmers came to Dr. Jessie Hunter, particularly Lewis Sanders…I don’t know if you’ll probably get a chance to talk with him. They wanted…this place was an old co-op, North Bolivar Development Co-op…they had this land they had probably 3…maybe 4 or 5 plant acres of land given to them, put in trust to them, which I think may have been as much as 1,000 acres. Uh, so this was to help these limited research farmers. Uh, the co-op had came in disrepair, was dysfunctional and so some of the farmers who were part of that co-op came and met with Dr. Jessie Hunter, who was the extension administrator at that time…associate extension administrator… and asked him why didn’t Alcorn get involved in conducting research and demonstration at this station. At the time, this building was sham ____________________________, there was no greenhouse here, the irrigation was in disrepair, there was no cold storage facilities or anything. So all these things were brought here in 19…starting in 19…. We had to clear the land, starting in 1995, 1996, and I think they may have grow the first crop in 1996. I think they cleared in 1995 and first crop in 1996. I came here in, like I said before, June of 1998. The purpose was primarily to assist these limited research farmers in alternative crop production, particularly sweet potatoes…mostly sweet potatoes and vegetables, southern peas, butter beans, okra, squash, crops of that sort that these farmers could grow and make some money on and sell in market. So that was the purpose of that, of this station. We demonstrate to them and we do research on how to do it.
EG: How, um, many farmers would you say you work with?
AM: You asking me a loaded question. Ha ha.
EG: Just a vague….
AM: Me per se or the organization period?
EG: No, the org, I mean the yeah, the whole….
AM: We work with farmers, probably over the years, we’ve probably worked as much as a hundred farmers. Uh, because no only did we, were we instrumental in training farmers in the Mississippi Delta, but we also trained a group of farmers in Eastern Arkansas who came to know, want to know how to grow sweet potatoes. They were trained at our facilities and use of our equipment that we got from grants, and uh…harvesting, uh, planters we used to get them established in eastern….in that little co-op was established in eastern Arkansas in the…I guess in the Helena…uh…Helena, Arkansas, Marianna, West Helena…in that area.
EG: Um, do ya’ll have any association with the sweet potato co-op in Mound Bayou?
AM: Oh yeah. The Sweet Potato Growers Association as well as the Sweet Potato CDC. Yeah, we work with those farmers, the Sweet Potato CDC, and we work with those…assist them in getting grants. Uh, Glory Foods, uh, which is an African American company that…that…that proc…can and process vegetables and…and…and…and add their cuisine on the market. Also was supposed to build a sweet potato producing plant here. The sweet potato was sold under the name of Mound Bayou because the Delta…sweet potatoes in the Delta, because of the heavy soil, generally are sweeter to the taste than those grown in the hills and other places. So we have the special _________________ that had their own…purple and white box…Mound Bayou sweet potatoes. And it was really supposed to take off. Unfortunately, the president of the organization, Glory Food, died and the company moved in a different direction. But they are still buying potatoes from farmers…African American farmers in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Arkansas. And they buy other vegetables also. They buy greens…process greens and other things.
EG: They did put in a sweet potato processing….somewhere in the Delta didn’t they…Marks or…?
AM: We have a vegetable processing facility in Marks. And that facility, uh, actually that facility was supposed to be here, but that politician over there had a little more punch and got funded from I think U.S…rural development….got some funds from rural development grant and uh, and put the processing facilities in the Marks area…his…in his district.
AM: Uh, Senator Simmons was interested in pushing to get money from his farmers to buy equipment and to get a proc…They do have a washing processing facility, just for washing and grading, here in Mound Bayou. Used to be an old…used to be an old cotton gin, but that is still functioning with equipment in it to wash sweet potatoes and to pack our sweet potatoes.
EG: Um, how has…have you seen technology change over time?
AM: Ha ha. That’s a good question. Well, when I first came here… before we got any type of digger, we used to just have to use a mule buster. So, the technology has changed quite rapidly. We have uh, we had just a two-row transplanter, now people have six- and eight-row transplanters. We have mechanical harvesters for the sweet potatoes. Many of the farmers now who didn’t have irrigation have irrigation systems, wells, and irrigation systems. Uh, some of the farmers are using GPS technology. We have used it on the station. Some of the farmers have that ability to use it on their equipment also. So there have been a lot of ________________ in the last 5-6 years.
EG: What does GPS do for the farmers?
AM: Most people think that it is too expensive for the farmers and that was the argument, say “Oh, small farmers can’t make money.” But it actually enables a farmer to keep up with uh, areas on the farm that may have…be problematic. For instance, if he’s got a low area that may be pulled and drained, or an area that may be too weedy, then you can vary the amount of fertilizer, you can vary the amount of pesticide, you can vary the amount of care that you need to do to that area to get it up to snuff. And they have it such that these things are computerized and uh, that the GPS technology is so advanced that I can come back within three feet of the original point and in case of an animal, a ranch, or cattle farmer, keep up with his animals and know exactly where they are. You can keep all type of detailed records, you know. And actually, some my research showed that GPS technology can and will help even a small farmer increase his income because he will become more efficient at what he is doing.
EG: So, how many farmers in this area would you say are using it…small farmers not the big farmers?
AM: I know of…I know Roger Morris is using it. Ha ha ha…I wouldn’t call his name, but I think he’s using it on his tractors. We have used it on one farmer’s, Wardell Sanders, fields. So, that’s there’s two that I can think of off the top of my head. I’m sure that there will be others using it, because the other disadvantages said it was too costly, but now we have companies right…local companies. The first time I…we redid the uh, the engines…UV engines from a small aircraft…could be a drone type aircraft…pilot-less aircraft…or it could be just a Cessna. When I first started this, it would cost us like…cost me…the first flight cost me…in 2001, cost me about $2000 dollars. Now, I can get the same thing done for about $500. Uh, the computers…the handheld rubberized computer…the small one cost me about $500. Now, you can go in Wal-Mart and buy one for $79 or $80. And uh, the regulizer was costing like $3000. You probably could buy one now for less than $1000. So, we…plus you can fit this on…equipment on the back of your tractors. You can…you can…get the boundaries to keep up with acreages…keep up with what fields and what fields are productive, what’s not productive. So you can…you can make all types of decisions by using GPS technology.
EG: So, you don’t have to buy a new tractor, you just have to buy the new GPS to attach?
AM: Naw, you attach it to your system and you can attach it to your equipment. One nozzle may spray at one _______________ on the tractor and another spray on another _________________. One put…one area will put down so much fertilizer based on you know, the comparative rates with this technology.
EG: Um, what was the most memorable moment growing up when you figured out you wanted to, uh, work with plants.
AM: Ha hum. That’s a tough question. I’ve been working with plants for quite a while because we had…I came up under two systems. I came up under desegregation…so I saw, uh…We used to have the…at the time, the segregated system, the Caucasians, had the, what they called the future farmers of America…had a blue and gold jacket. We had what we called new farmers of America. We had our black and gold jackets. And we would have to compete, uh, at the state fairs for judging animals, judging land and things of this sort. Uh, I can remember, uh, the first time we combined…after…so I started out in ninth and tenth grade doing this. By 19…after ’65, everything integrated, so now we merged into the future farmers of America. And so now, I’m able to compete. And the first time I was able…our club was able to compete, um, I think we judged land…we also in forest…forest land and things of that sort. I think among all of those groups, and I think we were the only African American group, and I think we might have placed…and it might have been twenty or thirty schools…we might have placed in the top ten. That was memorable. ‘Cause that told me then that we could compete and this is the first time we had, many of us had any direct competition. The other memorable thing I think was, uh, I knew that…after going to Tuskegee, I had always been in segregated school systems and uh, didn’t really have any contact until I decided to proceed to test myself to see how much, huh…what my education at Tuskegee meant. And so I, I took as a…as a…what we call a…a special student _______________. I took the courses, granted courses at Auburn University…which was 20 miles from Tuskegee. So, I’m going to Tuskegee and Auburn at the same time while working on a Master’s. Then I realized that, uh…there’s another point that I realized that I could compete with anybody else. By being in those classes, I knew that, um, I could compete with anybody else. So that was memorable. But probably the most memorable thing that I could say is that, when I received a….when I received a graduate assistantship to study at Cornell…that’s probably the most memorable thing. And there’s other too, but… and in passing your admission to candidacy exam…and the finally earning the degree. You know but… Admission to candidacy is, once you’re admitted to candidacy, it’s an oral exam and they can eliminate you or they can continue to give you a terminal Master’s at that point. And they do wash some people up at that point. But if you, if you…and some people have to take it many times. I took it one time…I was able to pass it…and then I was able to… You have doubters…you have people…you have well wishers… I had my share of uh, of uh, I guess I had my share of both. But I had some people who had fallen out with my…and I’m not gonna call their name, who had fallen out with my major professor, uh, who wanted to see my demise, who wanted to see me fail. And I, I’m the type of person, uh, if you tell me what I can’t do and I’ll show you what I can do. And I usually take the negative energy that a person puts on me, I usually re-channel it and make it positive energy. So, when they, they…when I was first went to graduate school at Cornell, some of the doubting Thomases, as I like to call them, were saying, “I give him six months…he won’t make it…he won’t make. He’ll be back. He’ll flunk out.” So, after six months, I was still there. And so, I could remember after passing that candidacy, I called my old major professor, Dr. Whatley, and told him that I had passed the…that I was admitted to candidacy and passed the, we called that the exam. And he…I told him to say hello to my doubting Thomas…I won’t call his name. And uh, he responded by saying to me, “You don’t have to tell me how to rub his nose in it. I know how to rub his nose in it. And I will rub his nose in it.” Hee he. Cause he was for me…he was always for me. And he, he uh, uh, we lost him in February of last year, but he was a champion for small limited resource farmers and he is the reason why many of us who are African Americans, we have Ph.D.’s in Horticulture or _________________. He is the reason why many of us have those Ph.D.’s. Cause he was an advocate for getting us in Minnesota, North Carolina State, Michigan State, Illinois, Cornell, Rutgers. He had the…he would call and then speak to the department heads or the Dean and say I got this such and such a person. I remember when he called and told, at the time, Dr. Sweet, “He ain’t no foreigner, he’s an African American…he’s American. He did good on his GRE. He can make it. I want you to give him an assistantship.” And he called and did the same thing for a couple of my colleagues at Minnesota and uh, and uh other places like that. And uh, and it’s, it’s amazing what he did do and how he encouraged us, you know. But I think about it all the time. We don’t have that kind of advocacy anymore and it’s affecting a new group of people. I don’t think we’re getting, as a whole, uh, Americans in general, not just African Americans, Americans in general are not going into the sciences, in particular Ag sciences and not getting Ph.D.’s anymore. I’ve been talking to people and they say they can’t find the students anymore. So, if you look at the amount of Ph.D.’s that are coming out now or most of the, uh, students that get Ph.D.’s, they coming from other countries….they not coming from this country. So we got, we got a problem….you know. Especially in, I know in the Ag sciences…and it’s probably that way in some of the other sciences too…in chemistry and probably…in physics, I know it is…chemistry and physics, you just don’t find…and in engineers also…they just don’t find. What’s happened out there, they’re making so much money in starting salaries with their Bachelor probably…a cat get to making that money, it’s hard to leave it and go back and be a _______________ in be in poverty like we had to do as a graduate student, being married, and having children, and having assistantship of $5000 a year and….
EG: And like you said, I mean, school’s hard.
EG: The programs were hard.
EG: Some people wanted to get to a level that they know ____________________________.
AM: That’s right. It is hard…it’s not easy.
EG: Um, how would you say that…or would you say that race has had an effect on family farming in the Delta?
AM: Um, hee. Just look at your…look at the Black Farmers lawsuit. Hee hee. And it…I think race has a tremendous effect. I mean, look, let’s face it…here in the South, people were brought here in the bottom of their ships to do this back-breaking work…in particular the Delta. The Delta got a hell of a history. I mean, not even allowing you to grow trees. That still exists now. You know, we can’t plant pine trees here. Why? Because if I plant pine trees, I can, I don’t have to go work that plantation, chop that cotton, pick that cotton. I can hunt. I can cut wood… I can sell wood… I can survive. Hee hee. They made sure that you were attached to that land, made sure that you were a sharecropper, and then made sure that you never, no matter what your crop was, you were always a little short and never got out of debt. My uncle was one of the few people that I know that got out of it…you know. There are people that’s still on some of these plantations that’s locked in. Uh, so it was not just racism against African Americans and other minorities. It’s actually sexism too, even now. And the USDA guys, I’ll tell them to their face, they’re the most racist, sexist organization you can imagine. I’ve got colleagues who are women, who are Caucasian women, who they openly discriminated. Each time they win their case, they appeal it. And they haven’t had a raise in ten years or more…fifteen years…and they’re good scientists…and good people. I’ve seen farmers, uh, denied, uh, loans…I have went to appeals and helped farmers who had a disaster…that disaster in Arkansas and here. Uh, I, it just…I deal with it every day. I had to deal with a case, and I can’t call the names of the people because…and sometimes I do it so… This person was supposed to get a well and irrigation and what they were doing, they were getting the people at the farm service agency, they were getting people’s…they wanted the drilling rights to go to larger companies, who were Caucasian owned. But the Caucasian owned company was sub-letted to African American companies who actually did the physical work, but got a fraction of the money. So, some of our farmers, African Americans, went directly to the African Americans to drill the well and uh, put the well down. And so, the people in the offices…local office…did not want to pay… they stalled for two or three months….they did not want to pay…hee hee, you know. So, I had some of the state people from the state office were here on the station, reviewing our station, and a farmer had told me this was happening. And I said, “come on over”. And so both of these ___________________ were there at the state office…and the state office became the boss of the local people. So, I called in the state office and it was an African American _____________________. I called the farmer and said, “come on over” and then asked in front of this guy….just asked “why your farmers…why your contractor haven’t been paid after two or three months?” Hee hee ha. That way, I just stood on the side and let them talk. That way I got it done, you know. And this is…this is how you have to do things, you know. Just find a little grease so it will slide and then stay back. Because I’m not in extension, I’m in research, so I can do that. Extension, you can’t get into politics, but research…. I do extension work anyway because if a farmer comes to me and asked me, “I got a problem with such and such a thing…can you come to my field?”… I go up to his field and I give him advice, you know. And so that’s what we do… we don’t…. Because we are, we’re so small and that’s…. My major professor, Dr. Whatley, did it that way. He never had an extension appointment, but anytime a farmer needed anything or needed some assistance, he would give them the assistance.
EG: Where, where is the area that you serve? …. If I mean, like, the demonstration farmers outside of Mound Bayou, but I mean…
AM: Well, we serve…
EG: How far….I know
AM: Let me tell you this much…I’ll tell you this much. You see, we have helped…African Americans are like this, you got to understand, African Americans will help other race people, in particular Caucasians, before they help themselves. And see, see the sweet potato growers, hee hee, was supposed…we’re supposed to have some millionaires among African Americans and this was geared toward building them up because they were, you know, they were at the bottom of the totem pole. And if we could get anybody else up, we would build them up later on. But our farmers, one of our farmers in particular, he took…he went down to Belzoni. There were some farmers down there getting ready, some Caucasian farmers, getting ready to go bus some cotton. Took our information to them, you know. Course now…
EG: Now they’re growing sweet potatoes.
AM: Yeah, now they’re growing sweet potatoes and they’re growing more sweet potatoes and more successful than we are, simply because they could get credit. Uh, they can go to the, uh, the commissioner of agriculture or somebody and get something…a grant that maybe perhaps that we couldn’t get. So, they got maybe two thousand, two hundred acres of sweet potatoes when we was really supposed to gear to four or five thousand in this area. But it’s in the Delta. I, I really don’t, don’t mind it, but I would’ve rather hoped that we would…charity starts at home and then spreads abroad, you understand. I would hope that we would, that we would build our farmers up to a certain level, then we could spread our _____________________. Cause we’ve helped people, like I said before, in Arkansas and those farmers are doing good in Arkansas…they were more organized.
EG: You do have a lot of sweet potatoes that come out of Mound Bayou though, right?
AM: We have some. We don’t have nearly the acres that we used to have. We had, uh, at one time, we had almost fifteen hundred acres of sweet potatoes between the Sunflower and Bolivar county area. Uh, this year, I’m pushing it…this year, we’re lucky if we get a hundred acres because, what happened to our farmers is that the farmers were looking at a gnat payment and that payment was a non-insured loan payment for a disaster and uh, gives the farmer…it was based on your ability to cash flow… so our farmers… I had a farmer, for instance, to show you this… Some of the farmers was interested not in producing sweet potatoes, but getting that loan… I mean getting that payment, which that payment for some farmers might have been forty or fifty thousand dollars at one whop. But I had one farmer in particular, I ain’t gone call his name cause I may ____________________ to this day. He had…we estimated that we had, he had a minimum of $250,000 of sweet potatoes on his forty acre spot….that’s the minimum he had. He came to me in September, came to me and another colleague, and he asked, and he showed us his potatoes. And I told him this, “I recommend to you that you begin to harvest your potatoes within the next seven to ten days. He was told that by other extension administrators, he was told that by other extension agents, he was told that by other farmers. He told me, I don’t mind these US number one’s…a grade…becoming US number two’s…US number one is the highest paid grade….I want the small ones to become number ones. I said, you’re not guaranteed that…you need to harvest and harvest within the next seven to ten days. He didn’t do it…the rain came, and he lost that $250,000 minimum and collected the forty or fifty thousand dollars. You see what I’m saying? So, after you build this up over history, case history, three or four years in between having a drought and having excessive rain, then the county averages drop down…which they usually determine whether or not they gone make you a loan…drop down to maybe sixty-six bushels and acre, which it did. So, you cannot cash flow, so they will not loan you, make you a loan over what you can’t cash flow on. And the state average is like three hundred and fifty bushels, so you way below the state average.
EG: So, instead of harvesting, he did the payment for having them flooded out?
AM: Yeah. He began to get them harvested, but it was too wet. He had no desire to harvest, because he had his eyes…and several other people did that…unfortunately followed his suit. This is why some of them are not in business. The ones who did harvest, they are still in business. Because one the farmers told me, he said, one good crop of potatoes will last you four or five years, because you got income now.
EG: Right, right. I think that’s all the…no, wait, I have another question. Um, you mentioned some Mound Bayou boxes.
AM: Yeah, they had their own…Glory Food…
EG: Do you know if there are any of those around?
AM: There may be still some around.
EG: That would be great for our display in the museum.
AM: There may be some around. I’ll have to check with uh, check with Roger Morris or Zulu Sanders…Louis Sanders…and they may have some around. Uh, no problem, I’m sure that they have some around.
EG: We’re trying to contact that Louis Sanders and uh, Roger Morris to interview them and I have just acquired the cell phone number.
AM: Oh, I’ve got the cell phone numbers. I’ve got Rogers and I got Zulu’s….Louis was one of the farmers that I helped out. I helped most of ‘em out. Uh….Louis Sanders is 719-9605. One of our farmers have died. Roger is 902-0634.
AM: Um hmm.
EG: Did you…is there anyone else you’d recommend that we interview?
AM: Cornelius Toole.
EG: We did him and it was wonderful.
AM: Uh…who else can you talk to? I guess you could talk to Mr. Toliver…I don’t have Toliver’s number…it’s in the phone book. Toliver is still growing sweet potatoes. Uh…
EG: That would be good to talk to some of the farmers that you assist. Is there anything you’d like to add that we haven’t asked?
AM: Yeah, uh… If the small farmer, and the small farmer family has been the background, the backbone…of this nation…and as the small farm goes, so does the nation. What is taking place now is that insurance companies, large corporations, ____________________ corporations are buying up and forcing small farmers out of business. In particular, if you notice in the last five years, a lot of small farmers used to farm hogs, now their not a fan of hogs. That’s all done by large farmers…Tyson Foods… large corporations like that. Uh… Dr. Whatley used to say, if you think negative…they say, a small, a farmer feed, clothe, and shelter you three times a day. You complain about farmers. He used to have on the back on his bumper sticker, if you complain about farmers, don’t complain about farmers with your mouth full of food.” Hee hee he. Uh, I watch with the energy crisis and all these things happening, I think we have to really pay attention to that small farmer and that medium size farmer….which your small farmer may be as much as three hundred acres now. We’re gonna have to…this country is going the wrong direction. Uh, we put too much emphasis on what’s happening in other nations and not looking at what the founding fathers founded the country for…that is look out for the citizens of America. We are doing more for other countries and letting our country go to, go to pot. I mean, we should not have the energy crisis, because we are capable. If Brazil, in ten or twenty years can turn it’s country around from an oil and gas dependent to a gasohol and alcohol dependent continent…they turned it completely around. You know, we got farmers who go to Brazil, and Argentina, and different places, and even China and teach them how to do things. Certainly, we can turn around the technology that we have and know how that we have…experience that we have…that we can turn this thing around and not depend on anybody for no energy. I, myself, bought me an old Mercedes. I’m gone equip this thing to run off…it’s gonna run off of cooking oil.
AM: Bio-diesel. The other thing that we have to look at and pay a lot of attention to, we’ve got the people here know how to make white lightning all over the place. That same technology for making, for making gasohol is there, huh….and all we do is add a dye or poison so that nobody won’t go get drunk and kill themselves. But the technology is there. Uh, I don’t plan to be held hostage by these oil companies. And they’re blaming OPEC, they’re blaming everybody else, but they haven’t built a refinery in thirty years. So the process… the problem is the ability to refine. If they dumped all the oil in here, we couldn’t refine no more than we did thirty years ago because our capacity…we haven’t built a refinery in thirty years. So, somebody should be saying…some politicians or somebody should be saying, “Exxon Mobile, build some refineries. We’ll give you a tax break, build the refineries”, cause that’s where the key is. And if I was in the oil industry and I was OPEC, hey I’d tell…I told OPEC, told some people that I know…I would be on the other end…I would be building a refine…I’d begin to build refineries in America and begin to have my own service stations here and be on the ________________ and cut all the middle men out. Small farmers have to do the same thing. If the small farmers are gonna survive, cannot act like a big farmer. You can’t… like Dr. Whatley say, you can’t grow __________ row crops…you can’t have cotton on the _____________….you got to be multifaceted…he must be able to grow anything from cut flowers, to strawberries, to sweet potatoes, to….he must look into organics and sustainable agriculture…he just gotta look at the whole ________________. He got to have honeybees, gotta have a pond with catfish in it…you gotta pick your own, you pick, clientele, membership, ________________…you gotta have a combination of these things if you gone survive.
EG: And bring it to the local farmers market.
AM: That’s right….and bring it to the local farmers market. This, this, we, this is how we’re gonna make it. This is how we always did, you know. Uh, I think hard times is gonna come to this country. Uh, in fact, it’s already coming, you know. They think gas is $3.00, very soon it will be $5.00 and there will be nobody, no advocate for the consumer, no advocate for the common laborer, the common people. There’s not advocate…look there’s nobody saying anything, huh.
EG: Is there…..
AM: You know, so… I remember how my main professor, Dr. Whatley, Booker T. Whatley, he single-handedly advocate…made an advocacy for muscadine grape wine…in Alabama. He went from almost no acreages to getting legislation passed, to getting farmers to grow, to getting wineries in Alabama…single-handedly, you know…one man pushing it, greasing and saying it to the right person. In Alabama ________________. Now they have, you have, you have wineries…you have __________________________ that they normally they didn’t have. We would do the same thing, Eventually, we’ll have to do the same thing. We have to advocate for our own energy. We cannot be held hostage any longer… I will not be a hostage. If I take my little…I’m gonna take my little old Mercedes diesel…I’ve got a couple other little old cars that I think I’ma convert to maybe, to gasohol or some other fuel. And they’ll tell you that, uh, we have this research about ethanol won’t give you as much gas mileage and all this stuff. I put… I was in Ohio with my little Nissan ’96 and uh, it’s one called I think Oasis or something, that sells gasohol. So, I say “Okay, let me see if this stuff really work.” I ad tried it before and I got significant improvement. And I normally get 32 to 34 miles a gallon in this car and I usually keep that up. This time, I’m coming through the hills, I’m loaded down, I got all my children in the car… I put this stuff in coming through those mountains and hills…I got 36.7, almost 37, miles to the gallon, just to that one tank. So, that tells me the stuff…and I’ve done similar things to that in a car years ago and I got maybe four or five miles per gallon. So that tells me that somebody is not telling us the truth about this stuff and the reason why is cause they want to keep you dependent on buying this…oil. Okay. So this is some of the things that…I’ve probably said more than I need to say and I’m probably gonna step on some toes. But if would channel our energy towards helping like we’re supposed to ….like Johnson had…President Johnson…the late President Johnson had a war on poverty. We need to revisit some of these things. We need to look out for social purposes. If Cuba can have healthcare for all their citizens, huh…Cuba….huh….and we cannot…we’re boycotting them sooner trying to learn from them, you know, we’re boycotting. Cuba can control the sweet potato weevil.
EG: They can?
AM: Yeah. Why can’t we do it here? You know. We gotta stop being so arrogant. If you want to be…you not supposed to be the polices, police of the world, you ‘posed to be the leaders of the world because of your moral behavior not because I got more weapons and I can go ‘round bullying and invading somebody’s country…take over their country and cause chaos and confusion, you know. That’s not what the founding fathers…go back…and actually they said this country was supposed to be, uh, the actually type of government we have built…they say we have built not a democracy…we have built…we have given you a republic. Democracy don’t work no where and it certainly can’t work in this country. A democracy means that every person vote for every action that’s taken by the government. It cannot work in the United States…it’s not working here…it will not work in Iraq…it will not work anywhere else. One guy says “a demonstration of craziness”….he he he. So, this do not…so you do not have to edit that out at all…hee hee…let that stay in here. That’s for these politicians that might come after me…I don’t care…hee hee.
EG: Well thank you very much for your time today.
AM: Alright. I gave you a good earful, so….
EG: I’m just impressed. You seem very educated and very in tuned to being education…and education being an important part.
AM: Oh yeah…absolutely. If we had more educated….we have a saying in this ____________ that one educated man is much harder on the devil than a thousand ignorant believers. So the same thing…you got…
EG: One educated man is harder…
AM: Harder on the devil than a thousand ignorant believers you don’t know their _________________. That’s one of the saying of the _________________. Say you have to be…we have to be educating our people. We got to educate these farmers. We got to bring them up. I mean, we got a lot….There’s a guy that showed up to a meeting…uh, this meeting was in Kansas City, MO….driving a truck…and he’s just a old, old farm bum, you know, he wasn’t no educated man. He runs his off wood chips and anything…scrap paper…anything…he driving it. He gets…I think he put two pounds of that stuff in for every gallon, equivalent to a gallon of fuel. So he is able to do that. I think Auburn University is now going to equip him with a new truck and all the technology so they can turn around and show people. This is how this country can work. It’s gonna take people like that, not nobody sitting in General Motors or sitting in Exxon Mobile or one of these corporations. They have no desire to do but what they do and make all the profits they can make.
EG: My favorite band, their tour bus is diesel.
AM: Hee hee. Oh good. We have a truck running by biodiesel. There’s some people…there’s a couple of plants that’s gone be built…I think one in Clarksdale and one in Greenville.
EG: Um, uh, yeah.
AM: And we’re trying to get some other things…switch grass…we’re trying to do something with switch grass…I’m hoping.
END OF DOCUMENT