Hosting community events and gathering personal stories are primary ways I compile information to back my rural research. One avenue I’m able to learn even more about the needs of black farmers of the South that I help and write about is through community-based listening sessions.
Throughout the academic year, I hold a series called “Black Farmer Listening Sessions” in Milledgeville at Georgia College, which is where most of my work is produced. For novice researchers in higher education and no matter the subject matter, these listening sessions are important to host for a few notable reasons:

Farmer Howard James discusses importance of land sustainability with Dr. Veronica Womack at Jibb’s Vineyard in Byromville, Georgia.

First, my academic research is dedicated to African-American farmers’ efforts to sustain their land along what’s known as the Black Belt region — territories from Texas up to Virginia. Listening sessions open up the opportunity for these farmers to talk about their agricultural experiences (good or bad), and how they contribute to Southern food and Black Belt culture;
Second, these sessions create a networking environment. Through my research, farmers are able to build meaningful relationships with community leaders, other landowners and health-food advocates, and share their products, services and ideas. African-American farmers start to realize they’re not alone. They start to realize they’re folks just like them who are as passionate about maintaining and cultivating the land as they are; and
Third, this type of informational gathering helps give them new knowledge. Black farmers are learning about the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) many services to them in order to become successful entrepreneurs. Farmers become better informed about USDA programs and services — what USDA is supposed to do for rural communities and landowners.
Click here for previous listening session coverage.