June 21, 2006
Interviewed by Eleanor Green and Emily Weaver
Transcribed by W. Ray July 17, 2006
EG: My name is Eleanor Green. I am here with Dorothy Grady Scarborough on June 21, 2006. I am interviewing her as part of the Delta Black Farmers’ History Project.
EG: Okay. Can you tell me your full name?
DS: Dorothy Grady Scarborough.
EG: Can you tell me about when and where you were born?
DS: I was born in Shelby, Mississippi roughly fifty years ago.
EG: In Shelby. Have you lived here all your life?
DS: Yes. Well I would say yes because the times that I left it would only be for three or four months before I decided home is where I needed to be. I tried several cities, moved to Chicago and Dallas, but each place roughly a month, two months and I was back.
EG: Okay. Can you tell me about your parents?
DS: My mother was basically a housewife. Mother of nine children. She died at the age of fifty-one of a stroke. But like I say, basically a housewife.
EG: Was she from here?
DS: Yes. My mom was actually born in Pace, Mississippi. And, I don’t remember the year that she and my dad married. Was married thirty-some odd years before she passed. About thirty-one years I think when she passed away. And my dad has been dead about nine years. He died of cancer. He was a farmer as well as, we grew up farming, but after we grew up he had factory jobs.
EG: And was he from Shelby too?
DS: My daddy was born in Leland and he moved to Renova as a child. So we all basically grew up in Bolivar County.
EG: And you said there were nine children so you had eight siblings?
DS: Um hmm.
EG: Can you tell me a little bit about them. Your siblings still leave near? Do any of them still farm?
DS: I have a brother that’s the eighth child. He’s next to me. He basically grows what he eats. He has had a garden as long as I can remember. Even though he’s been in a wheelchair since he was nineteen. (inaudible) So he has small livestock, some chickens, he grows his own produce. I have a sister who is in Dallas. Her whole backyard is, half of the front and all of the sides is vegetables. I think we got a lot of that from our dad. And that was something that he did on up until he had no energy. He was still trying to work a garden. Because he loved the results and returns from it. (inaudible) Now all of them would eat fresh produce. I have two that have no time for it, but she can buy. So, that’s why a lot of times when my husband and I grow it, it doesn’t make it to the market cause it is bought before we can even get it out of the fields.
EG: Does your family before you moved into town, did you have land?
EG: You rented?
DS: No, it was sharecropped.
EG: How much land area do you use now?
DS: Here, we have an acre. And there are two other areas that we use in the community. One of the fields a farmer that donated us a acre of the land as a community garden plot. After the community lost interest we only had one other farmer out there, or family, who my husband (inaudible) and the school garden we still manage ourselves.
EG: Does the school use the furnish from the garden, or is it just….?
DS: It was something that we did with the kindergarten in years past. And those children would take some of the produce, and we had a lot of lettuce and sunflower beds throughout the garden, and other produce, tomatoes, we did the small things for the children to take while they were in school. So they can still use it.
EG: What kinds of … how long have you been on this land?
DS: I came here in ’77.
EG: ’77. You’ve been growing since then?
DS: I have had a small garden every year since then.
EG: What has been the – what have you produced on your farm?
DS: Our main crop over the years has been okra. And tomatoes, (inaudible) and squashes. Peppers and (inaudible). But (inaudible) our greens, mostly turnips and raise collards. But we also have a lot of lettuce mix. Across the winter months into the early, or latter May. Then it got too hot so then (inaudible). But this year we are trying herbs. Quite a bit of herbs we are producing this year. What else do we have? Zuchinnis, (inaudible) squashes. And eggplants.
EG: Do you plant from seeds or do you plant from starts?
DS: We do both. We the greenhouse we have been able to do transplants in the greenhouse. And on a large scale.
EG: How many greenhouses do you have now?
DS: We have two. It’s 22 x 48. (inaudible)
EG: Has technology changed what you produce or how you produce over time.
DS: Yes it has. We used to buy transplants but now we are able to grow in the greenhouse and actually was able to sell some last year – well this year, because we didn’t do that large of a scale in the green house this year other than what we wanted to use for ourselves.
EG: To make the farm work what kind of changes have you had to make over time?
DS: One of the things that we have done is actually too much work for us. As we have added in livestock. But at the same time it extra work but the livestock has been our fertilizer for us. So that is one thing that we have not had to purchase is any type of fertilizer. And actually what we produce is chemical free. We use composting as well as the waste products from the chickens and rabbits. Along with that we have gotten two, well actually, one child is with us all the time. That’s Chiquila, a nephew of mine. He’s been, this is your third year? And three other young men. But sports has really pulled them as they play softball and (inaudible). He’s usually here until about twelve, cause he has sports in the afternoon. So, by using these youth to help us, it has been most productive for us.
EG: Okay. What kind of livestock do you have?
DS: We have turkeys, ducks, rabbits, chickens. Some people don’t look at red worms as livestock, but the worms (inaudible).
EG: Yeah, I wanted you to tell me about the worms?
DS: We started with worms about two years ago. We first tried them inside the greenhouse (inaudible). It was productive as far as the fertilizer was concerned. (inaudible) We got a lot of our waste produce from SuperValue and Walmart gave us some. They wouldn’t commit to a daily or weekly pickup because of some issues but randomly they would allow us to pick up from there. And the worms (inaudible). And we changed from the greenhouse crates and have them in boxes now. We are using food waste as well as the leaves around in the community. Waste Management brings all the leaves to us. So we don’t have to go out, we used to have to go out and gather them ourselves. As they collect them in the city they bring them to us. We use them in several ways. We bury them out in the chicken yard. As they break them down we take them to the composting pile for the worms.
EG: What’s the role of the worms?
DS: They produce the worm castings. From the worm castings we use the worm castings as a base for stock plants. We also use (inaudible) for transplants that are already in the ground. And then we use the, I call it the broth, from the water of the worm castings and the worms (inaudible) we use that to mist spray the plants which is also a rich broth.
EG: So that is compost tea?
DS: Um hmm.
EG: And the chickens and the turkeys, are they raised for meat?
DS: We actually got more layers I think now than the turkeys. We probably got roughly thirty turkeys. Our turkeys we try to get the production of them up. We started with two and we now have ten. So we have eight small ones. As we get them up we will be able to use them for meat.
EG: What about the poultry? You said you have mostly layers but do you have some that you will be able to….?
DS: We have some.
EG: Do you have the capabilities to slaughter here or will you have to take them somewhere?
DS: It will be done through Growing Power project. It is a program that is a partner with Growing Power. But we have been funded through Growing Power to get the adequate equipment to be able to slaughter them.
EG: Have you built all of your own farm structures, the greenhouses?
DS: We built them. We had a couple of workshops where Growing Power came in as a project group that we were with a few years back and they assisted us with the construction of it. Actually, the first one that we did it was with Growing Power and at that time I did not even know Growing Power but I put one together but now we use it for a shelter for the chickens. And the one we have now is much larger. Those were assisted by Growing Power because they put them up and they were funded the funds to purchase the equipment (inaudible).
EG: Can you tell a little about what Growing Power is?
DS: Growing Power is a non profit organization for inner city farms where their overall concern is helping people help themselves. What they do is offer training on site once a month. I think it is a total of seven trainings. They start off in March, and the last one is in April, and they do October. No they start in February and they do one in September, latter September, the final for the year. So they do a total of six. The funds are through various grants. They offer scholarships to farmers actually all across the United States. But they placed a lot of emphasis on Mississippi. They actually adopted Mississippi where any farmer in this area you just let them know and they will pay for the lodging and meals and will give you portions toward your travel. And they work with a lot of school age children on the site and they offer trainings in several different areas: composting, greenhouse production, greenhouse structures, bee workshops, management workshops, just infrastructure type.
EG: Would you say they have played an important role in your farming capabilities?
DS: I think so. When I first moved here I had just land which was my house on the lot which is 100 X 125. And as the years passed, the land that was adjacent for houses was just a grown up field. So I had envisioned having that one day. I had given myself two years and I was going to be able to do something with it. At that time I wanted to be a connection to nature. And exactly what direction, whether it was going to be a butterfly herb type thing or what. But I know I wanted it be something that children would be able to connect with and learn from it. Cause I feel that they are disconnected from the herbs (inaudible) and not just the children but young adults, and actually some adults my age are actually still and probably will forever be disconnected. So it was probably four years ago we responded through Kellogg Foundation. Not just my farm but an organization that I am a part of. And we were in a session that we basically just did some talking about life in general. And I expressed some of the things that I wanted to happen here. And there was a lady there that at that time was the director of the (inaudible) project. She introduced me to Growing Power through a Mrs. Frankensteen. I can’t, – Hope, first name is Hope. Last name I think is Frankensteen. She was a young lady who worked out of Milwaukee (inaudible). We talked that particular weekend. She listened to what my dreams were. That’s what she told me Growing Power does. A year or two years later, (inaudible), who was a co-partner with her with Growing Power. The two of them had worked together. And we talked and they came down to a Ruleville Coalition Conference that was in Ruleville. And we went to that, Jessie and I did, and (inaudible) So that was actually when we made that connection was at the composting workshop. We invited them down for the Mississippi South Conference. That has been about three years ago. At that time we had been fortunate enough to purchase the land that’s behind our home. And at that time we had one greenhouse, probably several raised beds during that time. They came over and walked through it and he started naming stuff that he could see happening. That he wanted this to be the southern area for Growing Power to come and do trainings for the south. So when Growing Power started talking about what they wanted to do I had a smile. He asked me what I was smiling about and that was when I told him what my visions were and some of the things that I wanted to see happen here. At that time he had no knowledge of what I wanted to happen. From there they would be coming down like twice a year and (inaudible) certain things and just from different workshops across the United States, Mississippi (inaudible) and Southern (inaudible) and the Ruleville Coalition and several other things that we had attended. I had brought ideas back and when I brought ideas back and he would listen to my husband and he was very good to accept them.
EG: What would you say is the inherent value of the land to you and your family, not monetary, but what does it mean to you and your family?
DS: One of the things, and I guess it would fall back to being monetary, but that we are able to save money by producing all of our food, but at the same time we are able to reach others. And my main concern was to make sure that our young children have some insight on where their food comes from. What it takes to produce it and we are able to (inaudible) some tools for the elementary and middle school children. And we are partnered with the ag science students to be able to work with them through the school year with things they are having to do as (inaudible).
EG: Do you see a time when land will no longer be an important part of your family?
DS: My children, before we actually started with all the food, well should I say all the work, because at one point we just had raised beds off over here on the sides, and they would come out and help (inaudible). And as the years have gone by we have purchased more animals, well more livestock, they seldom go out those doors, because there is work out there and they know that. If I ask them to go gather eggs or gather cucumbers they will do that but it is not their interest. But they will eat anything that is grown out there.
EG: What would you say to a young person who wanted to become involved in farming today? What kind of advice would you give them?
DS: First of all I would be really excited, and I would probably overwhelm them with, and I would try hard not to infringe my ideas upon them, but never the less I would have to introduce them to it. And that’s to grow (inaudible). And I would emphasize the importance of the help along the lines of, but other than that, that it would be a good idea. And it is not easy. But the returns are great. And you don’t have to have ten, twenty and above acres to make a living growing organic.
EG: How do you feel about keeping the land in the family for future generations?
DS: I think it still will be. And the main reason I say (inaudible) it’s connected to my home. I feel strongly that it will be carried on by someone and I don’t think the land will ever be sold. And I will make sure in my will that it will not be sold. Whether it is leased out to somebody to carry it on. But the main thing is to make sure that it will never be sold.
EG: I know that you mentioned that you received assistance from Pepper Projects or Growing Power. Have you utilized any other assistance such as you know, USDA programs?
DS: Yes. USDA we used in our debts. Last year NRC assisted us with irrigation. And this year we applied for guarantees again and they are going to a drip system for us and that (inaudible).
Started producing and then we just stopped. (inaudible) a matter of technicians to do the work to get around to us.
EG: NRC is National Resources….
DS: National Conservation Resources or something like that.
EG: How has race affected your family farm? Has it played a role at all?
DS: No, I don’t think so.
EG: It hasn’t affected your access to the programs or anything?
EG: Did the Civil Rights Movement and the years which followed affect the atmosphere on your farm or in the community of your neighbors.
DS: I don’t think so. Because during the Civil Rights Movement I was less than five probably. And I wasn’t really aware of anything that was done at that age level that I saw a difference. You don’t know a difference at that age, you don’t recognize anything out of place. So, as I grew older, (inaudible) history of the past. It didn’t affect me.
EG: What is the most memorable moment in your farming life?
DS: I would say when we added livestock to what we were doing here and it was an (inaudible) at the livestock but not necessary for reproduction, but I was looking at it for being fertilizer. Then after I recognized the benefits, we started adding volume to the portions of livestock that we had. And you could see a difference in the yield and using the composting was (inaudible). And also as we grew back here and add new infrastructures or add structure or add on to what we do. Sometimes I look at my husband or he might look at me and say your dad would love this. And that is the biggest drive that I see behind my continuing this because this was something that dear to me. We always say if he was alive that we couldn’t get it away from him, we could not, because this is something that he really connected to and appreciated.
EG: Finally, is there anything else that you would like to add that I have not asked about?
DS: Not that I can think of.
EG: You mentioned bees earlier, do you have bees?
DS: No, we have funds to purchase bees but we still (inaudible) where to put them. Because we want them safe. Not safe from us but to be safe (inaudible) and to make sure the children would not be harmed. We are torn as to whether we really want this. We thought about away from this area over the ridge into the woods. At the same time I think we will be able to get pollination benefit from them here. But we are trying to figure out just where we need to put them. If it wasn’t for the flood area here we could easily put them in some places. (inaudible). The man back here (inaudible) and he wants them.
EG: And can we take a little walk around? What is the greatest challenge you faced in getting this farm up and going?
DS: One of the things that we (inaudible) is I guess I should say, weed control. Funding was, but I decided I would just use our work outside here and I use a lot of my funds to, my income, to do what we are having to do.
EG: So you work outside of farming. Can you tell me what kind of career you have outside of farming?
DS: I am a nurse, emergency room nurse. And I work night shift and usually on the week that I work seven on and seven off and the week that I am off I basically help here. And then the week that I am at work, I work nights, and when I get off at seven, I am up until about ten thirty or eleven o’clock and out here with things that need to be done around here. They will not hurt you. They will not hurt you. They might be a month old. And that particular chicken ended up in here because for some reason or another, they will peck on one another. And this one, they had just about, we lost a lot of them that way, see no feathers, they had pecked into the rectum area of them and they were bleeding.
EG: And what are the little ones?
DS: Those are turkeys.
EG: I’ve never seen a little turkey.
DS: Yeah those are little baby turkeys.
EG: And they are girls and boys right?
DS: Actually I don’t know what they are yet. The only way I know is when they get that little chin thing. And I have been looking to see if they are going to have it. (inaudible) and we lost about thirty when they were in the greenhouse. And they are doing great. They are really doing good. Before the summer is over we should have them laying. Rhode Island Reds right here. Plummers. And then we got chickens from (inaudible). And the strangest thing they find their way back here and get out every morning.
EG: The man that I have been buying my chickens from, when you go visit they are running all over the place. Judson said that there is a workshop at his place.
DS: (inaudible – dog barking) the crazy one is a pen and the other one is tied. We have peppers here. This went under water a while back and the peppers died so we have started off with a few more. And we have planted some more (inaudible).
Plastic is down there when we had to reline the pool we used that plastic to fight off the weeds, but at the same, I guess you can call it a moat, but when he is mowing sometime (inaudible) so we have to keep him out of there with the lawn mower.
(dog barking). Sit down. I don’t trust him. I don’t like him. My daughter decided we needed a dog. We had one of our own and it does whatever I tell him. That one rushes me and I don’t like that. (inaudible) got the last of the leaves and (inaudible) up this morning. We dump them into the chicken yard.
EG: That turkey looks ready to eat.
DS: He’s mean. Like if you go in there. That’s the male.
EG: Where is the female?
DS: She’s on the other side. She’s outside. She doesn’t fight.
EW: What kind of chicken is that kind of looks like Einstein?
DS: I was over in Lexington at a friend’s house and the lady across the road from her goes everywhere collects chickens. And I am always one for odd stuff. And that was the very first thing I picked. Now that’s a female chicken. Because it fights. Oh these rabbits just kicked down their food trays. This we have not completed. All thing left to do is pin down the bottom frame. The top one is completed. The other side is completed. This one has to be done as well. Actually, we did the extra layering outside of this. Now, this old turkey is as confused as she can be. It was a chick that laid eggs also in her box. She actually thinks those are her babies. These two baby chicks that are running around here. She thinks they are her babies. And I actually think there are two chickens that are setting too long.
EG: What does setting mean?
DS: They are brooding.
EW: Waiting for the babies to hatch?
DS: Um hmm. They are on the eggs. But actually it has been longer than….days. So I think the eggs are either bad or they disturbed the nest. Cause they get off from time to time. And I think that is what happened. Now a lot of them (inaudible).
Now usually this is not the route. My husband decided that he would do this I guess so (inaudible) Cause see it needs to be broken down more. But now those worms will eat that melon. They will eat – there are ants here as well, but it is plenty of worms in it. (inaudible) and it just spreads and rewets itself and it returns back through.
EG: And then you use that to mist the plants?
DS: Um hmm. (inaudible) corn stalks and okra and had seeds in our pockets and bags and they fell and wherever they fell and came up we left them. Okra along this pathway (inaudible). Now years ago we lost chickens because we had them in chicken pens.
EG: Can you tell me how you like working here for your aunt?
Nephew: I like it, and it keeps me out of trouble and stuff like that. And then I like to plant stuff and work with animals.
EG: Do you think you would like farming on your own later?
EG: What is your favorite part of working here?
Nephew: Working with the chickens and ducks (inaudible)
DS: Already pregnant. With my money I bought the other ten (inaudible). The guy had cages around the wall. He had them around the barn. There is a little clip that you use. (inaudible) Then we separate them out and the females have a cage of their own.
Tape cuts off.
END OF DOCUMENT