July 15, 2006

Interviewed by Eleanor Green and Emily Weaver

Transcribed by W. Ray    


My name is Eleanor Green and this is July 15, 2006 and I am here with Curtis Green at the Cleveland Farmers’ Market and I am here with Curtis Smith interviewing him for the Delta Black Farmers

Oral History Project.


EG:      Can you tell me your full name?

CS:      Curtis L. Smith

EG:      Can you tell me where you are from?

CS:      Merigold.

EG:      Can you tell me when you were born?

CS:      October 11, 1942.

EG:      Can you tell me about your parents?  Were they from Merigold, or did they move here from somewhere else?

CS:      My mother is from Hillhouse, Mississippi.  My father was from Friars Point.

EG:      How many brothers and sisters do you have?

CS:      Six brothers and three sisters.

EG:      Do any of them live in the Mound Bayou or Merigold area?

CS:      I got one sister that still lives there.

EG:      Did your family own land and farm when you were growing up?

CS:      Yes we did.

EG:      How and when did your family acquire the land.

CS:      Ever since I can remember, I guess in the early ’40’s.  ’43 I believe.  1943.

EG:      Do you remember how they got the land and how much they had?

CS:      40 acres.  I don’t know.

EG:      Several people in that area say they have 40 acres and they got it from the railroad.

CS:      No.  We didn’t get it from the railroad.

EG:      Where is the land located?

CS:      Two miles.  Between Mound Bayou and Merigold.

EG:      Is the land still being farmed?

CS:      Yes, some of it is.  (inaudible)

EG:      So it is farmed by yourself?

CS:      Right

EG:      And you sell what you grow at the Farmers’ Market?

CS:      (inaudible)

EG:      Do you know some of the history of the land and what else has been grown there and what has been done there over the years?

CS:      Well we just mostly, cotton and beans.

EG:      Was the farm ever used for share cropping or tenant farming?

CS:      (inaudible)

EG:      How has technology and what you produced changed over time?

CS:      Basically we are the same.  We never changed a whole lot.  We don’t have an irrigation system and we have never had one.  We don’t, we didn’t use as many chemicals as we have used.  But, they used to farm, they used to plant cotton earlier.  The beans used to come off later than they do now.    They used to come off later.  So we have to start up early now.

EG: Do you know did your family farm anywhere else before they came to the Delta?

CS:      As far as I can remember they were there in the same location?

EG:      Has the land ever been divided?

CS:      Well, I still have it.

EG:      You still have all 40 acres?

CS:      Yes.

EG:      Are there any original buildings?

CS:      No.

EG:      What is the value of the land here in your family, not in monetary value but how you view it in importance?

CS:      Well I don’t think you can really put a value, place value on something your family has worked on.  I wouldn’t look at it as a monetary thing.  I don’t even think of selling it.

EG:      So you see this land as always being in your family?

CS:      Right.

EG:      How do you feel about keeping the land in the family for future generations?  Do you think that will be difficult?

CS:      I don’t think so.  Everyone seems to be real pleased with the way it is now.

EG:      (inaudible)

CS:      (inaudible)

EG:      What would you tell a young person in the next generation about farming (inaudible).

CS:      Well, you know if you have the time and the resources I think it is a good thing to farm it if you can have, farm if it is going to be productive.  I find that vegetable farming seems to be as productive as the other.

EG:      How long have you been doing vegetable farming?

CS:      About four or five years.

EG:      Have you used any assistance such as co-ops or USDA programs or NRCS?

CS:      The co-ops from time to time I would go out there and get advice from them on different things.

(Tape cuts off)