Minority Landowner Magazine publisher Victor Harris had just a few hours before heading to Sumter, South Carolina, to lead a high tunnel demonstration workshop for local minority farmers interested in extending their planting season. High tunnels provide a temperature controlled greenhouse environment enabling farmers to potentially increase profits during the year. “I’m excited because we’re giving minority landowners options to increase the chance their land management strategies will be successful,” said Georgia native Harris.
Before leaving town to join farmers, contractors, and school-aged children for the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) funded demonstration, Harris delivered the keynote presentation at the U.S. Forest Service Southern Research Station (SRS) All Cultures Luncheon. The Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center co-hosted the May event to expand cultural awareness among Forest Service staff and collaborators in the Raleigh/Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, area.
Harris, who explored the forest surrounding the Athens, Georgia housing project where he grew up and remembered a “strong connection to nature and the outdoors,” highlighted an extensive history with SRS, citing his first collegiate summer job at the SRS Research Triangle Park lab. His experiences in research, forestry, and outreach motivated him to help minority landowners “improve productivity, increase profitability, and maintain ownership” through his publication, which features and reaches minority landowners from the Pacific Northwest to the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Harris’ portrait of a typical minority landowner – 55 and older, 49 acres of land or less, fewer than 50 percent with web access – cemented the need to communicate with small family farmers and forest owners in alternative ways. “Many minority landowners cannot access government publications because they have slow or no Internet access. We must continue to build trust and credibility, partner with community-based organizations, and outreach through hands-on workshops that help enhance their operations.”
During the luncheon, Forest Service and partner participants from NRCS and the South Atlantic Landscape Conservation Cooperative also explored the dynamic, proud heritage of the African American Gullah culture and sustainable conservation efforts off the coast of South Carolina through a NRCS-produced documentary, “St. Helena Island – A Better Place.” Participants shared memorabilia representing various cultures—including Columbian, American, Canadian, Native American, African, and Asian-Pacific American—that spanned several decades.
The All Cultures Luncheon increased multicultural understanding, positively influencing research, partnership, and professional relationship opportunities. The day’s purpose was accurately summed up in Harris’ closing thought, confirming “Everybody has the opportunity and ability to make positive changes.”–Perdita B. Spriggs, Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center
For more information, email Perdita Springs at email@example.com.